Growing Peaches and Nectarines
Peach and nectarine trees grafted on Brompton stock are the most popular, but those grafted on Common Mussel stock are recommended for smaller trees. It is possible to raise trees from cuttings or from fruit stones.
TYPE AND AGE OF TREES
Both peaches and nectarines do well as fan-shaped trees against walls or fences and should be bought when they are three years old. A few peaches, but not nectarines, can be grown as bush trees. Buy these as two-year-old plants.
If possible plant in November while the soil is still warm. When planting a fan-trained tree against a wall or fence, make sure that the base of the trunk is 6 in. away. If several wall trees are planted, allow 15 ft. between them. Do not plant deeper than 7 or 8 in. and spread the roots out fanwise. If the roots are broken or damaged, cut them back with a sharp knife so the cut faces downward. Fill in with soil and tread down. After planting, cover the soil for about 3 ft. round the hole with fine, rotted compost or sedge peat to a depth of 1 in.
Plant a bush tree 1 in. shallower than it was in the nursery; the soil mark on the base of the stem will serve as a gauge. Tread the soil down well over the roots, and tie the bush to the stake so that it cannot move in the wind. Place a mulch of straw or sedge peat round the tree to a depth of 3 ft., and at the end of two years remove the mulch and sow the area with Chewings fescue grass, allowing 1/2 oz. per sq.yd.
It is advisable to soak the trees thoroughly with a 5 per cent solution of a tar distillate wash each December, to clean the trees and kill aphids’ eggs.
Each February apply 3 oz. dried blood or fish manure per sq. yd. If the bush trees are grown in grass, cut the grass round them regularly in the summer and leave the cuttings to pass back into the ground. If the trees are not in grass, place a mulch of straw round them to a depth of l ft. and maintain it. Then apply fish manure or dried blood over the straw at 3 oz. per sq. yd. The straw mulch will help to prevent stone-splitting and, as it is not advisable to water once the fruit has set, will also keep the moisture in the ground. Just before the buds swell in the spring, apply a dressing of sulphate of ammonia over the straw at 2 oz. per sq. yd.
All varieties of peaches and nectarines are self-fertile, but because the blossoms are tender and pollinating insects tend not to work in bad weather, it is wise to do a certain amount of hand-pollination by brushing the centre of the fully open flowers with a camel-hair brush.
After planting bush trees, do not prune for 17 months and then cut all the branches back by about half, even if it means cutting back two-year-old wood. The trees should then send out numerous young laterals. In April the following year prune back some of the older, harder wood leaving the younger wood in its place. Make sure that the branches are kept off the ground and that the centres of the bushes are kept open.
The branches of fan-trained trees should radiate evenly from the main stem and be tied to telephone wires stretched tightly across the wall, the first 2 ft. above the ground and 3 in. away from the wall, and the rest 1-1/2 to 2 ft. apart.
Cut back to their base any laterals that grow out perpendicularly from the branches and tie the shorter laterals to the wires.
Each April cut out some of the old wood and leave the young wood evenly spaced, because it is this young wood that will produce the fruit.
It may be necessary to root-prune fan-trained trees eight years after planting, if they are making too much strong growth or if they have grown to the top of the wall and are becoming difficult to control.
In winter dig a 2-ft. semicircular trench 3 or 4 ft. away from the main stem of each tree; cut off all the strong-growing roots, then replace the soil carefully and tread it down firmly.
When the fruits on wall trees are about the size of chestnuts, thin them out so that they are 9 in. apart.
If there are any twin fruits on bush trees, thin them out by removing one fruit from each pair.
Peaches and nectarines will ripen more quickly if a small muslin or paper bag or part of an old nylon stocking is slipped over each fruit.
The bags will not only prevent the birds and wasps from attacking the fruit but will also prevent the ripe fruit from falling to the ground.
Pick the fruits very carefully by gripping them in the palm of the hand. Do not pinch them with the thumb and forefinger, as they bruise easily.
RECOMMENDED VARIETIES OF PEACH
Amsden June, mid-July. Crimson to purple flush. This has better flavour if allowed to fall into small muslin or paper bag when ripe. Better for walls than bushes.
Bellegarde, late September. Large, golden-crimson with delicious flavour. Hardy, but because of lateness difficult to ripen.
Duke of York, August. Rich crimson, refreshing. Makes a large tree.
Peregrine, mid-August. Large crimson. Excellent variety as a bush. Fairly free from disease.
Rochester, mid-August. Yellow flesh with one crimson side. Good variety when grown as a bush.
RECOMMENDED VARIETIES OF NECTARINE
Early Rivers, mid-July. Greenish-yellow, brilliant scarlet. Best early nectarine.
Elruge, late August. Greenish-white, with a purplish-red flush. Hardiest nectarine.
Humboldt, mid-August. Orange with deep crimson Hush. Flowers late, so useful in frosty areas.
John Rivers, early August. Large gold-en-yellow with deep brownish-crimson flush. Regular cropper.
Pineapple, early September. Large, greenish-yellow with crimson flush. Grows well in the south and south-west of British Isles.
Violette Hative, mid-August. Small, pale yellow, with dark red flush, good flavour. Does well in south and southwest of British Isles.