By MEREDITH KIRTON
Nectarines and Peaches (Prunus persica) are one of the quintessential summer fruits, with the season running from late October right through to April, and a real glut coming onto the market around December/January. What many people don’t realise is just how easy peaches are to grow, or how beautiful they can be… They can be grown in many areas of Australia, as the varieties available range from tropical selections (that cope with the heat) right through to cooler temperate varieties. They also can be bought in dwarf varieties, suitable for small gardens and pots, sold as Trixzie® grow about 1.5m x 1.5m. Their fruit is full sized, despite their diminutive statue. They can also be espaliered to be able to grown along walls and in narrow spaces, or kept as a beautiful small tree. Another idea is to plant more than one type in the same hole, known as duo and trio planting, or grow multi grafted plants to allow for a few different types, and on the one plant. Known as fruit salad trees with these multi-grafts it is possible nowadays to have the one tree bear a white fleshed peach, yellow fleshed peach and a nectarine all on the same bush!
Nectarines and peaches also have the added bonus of being self fertile, which means that they don’t need another variety to still be able to cross pollinate and set fruit, which can be a problem in the back yard situation for some other fruit tree. The biggest problem you will face is likely to be the birds, who, just like you, love the juicy sweet flesh but will also eat them greener, ruining the crop. Nets are essential for keeping them out of reach.
Peaches also get fruit fly in some areas of Australia, so you will need to be vigilant for this as the fruit ripens. Normally planted in winter when they can be purchased bare rooted and the range is widest and cheapest. They can be bought year round though if potted, and like a full sun position and are quite hardy, but don’t like being water logged so you will need to ensure that the soil drains will. Dig a hole, fill it empty with water and check that it drains away completely in 10 minutes. If it’s acting like a bucket, build up your planting level to above the ground in either a mound or raised bed, to ensure drainage is adequate. They will take about 3 years before they bear reliably, and need particular training to keep the bearing. To do this, each winter remove any branches that grow inwards, and shorten the remaining branches, all the time creating an open vase like shape, just like you do with rose bushes but on a much bigger scale. Also watch that you remove suckers, or the shoots that appear below the bud union, as they appear as these can overbear your plant and have no guarantee of being a tasty fruit…they are just chosen for their disease resistance and vigour as an understock. Each winter, check your plant for scale insects and spray with a suitable copper spray at bud swell to stop the disease peach leaf curl attacking
Photography by SUE STUBBS | Blog designed by RED PEPPER GRAPHICS