Peaches

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Peach Tree Peach Tree

Peaches and Nectarines can be grown successfully in the UK, and have in fact been grown here since long before the Norman Conquest. They are hardy enough to withstand the British winter, and the cold winter is in fact beneficial to them, the difficulty however is that their blossom opens early… as early as February in some cases, and any frost after the blossom opens will stop fruit from forming. They are therefore a bit of a gamble, and I would not advise trying to grow them any further north than the midlands.

If you have space however I believe they are well worth the gamble. I have a bush tree on my allotment and on average I get a good crop at least every other year. I am however fortunate to have an allotment in Surrey, sheltered by houses all around, and protected from the wind, and I have also chosen a spot on my allotment (behind the greenhouse) which protects the tree further.

If you have space in the garden, then the best bet is to plant them as a fan against a south facing wall. The wall will absorb heat during the day and release it again at night giving the tree some much needed protection against a late frost.

Growing Peaches

Trees are usually sold in containers, although they can also be bought as bare rooted trees, and whilst pot grown trees can be planted all year around, both types are best planted in Autumn.

Peaches prefer well drained soils, so if your soil is heavy dig a trench 1m square and about 1m deep, and put a layer of stones, or broken brick in the bottom, and then fill with good quality loam. Plant the tree at the same depth as it was previously (if using bare rooted trees, you should be able to see the soil line on the tree)

Peaches are sensitive to a late frost, so choose your location carefully. If possible train against a south facing wall, if not you can still train as a fan, in a sheltered south facing spot on the allotment, using a stake and wire system. This provides a number of advantages – the wall will absorb heat and protect the tree from frost, the compact fan structure will make it easier to cover the tree with fleece when necessary, and also to cover with bird netting later in the season.

One important note should be made here, if you do cover the tree with fleece, make sure that you open this up in the daytime to allow pollinating insects access to the blossom on the tree, alternatively pollinate by hand.

Peaches can also be grown successfully in the greenhouse (fan train these to save space), however you do need a large greenhouse, and you should consider whether this is the best use of the space. If you do decide to grow indoors, then they need high humidity (keep the greenhouse floor wet), in summer feed regularly with a high potash fertilizer (tomato feed), and in winter allow plenty of ventilation and don’t worry about the cold temperatures (open all the vents and door to the greenhouse)

Peach Rootstock

Nearly all trees for domestic garden use are grafted onto St Julien A rootstock. This is a semi vigorous rootstock which left unchecked will produce a tree with a final height and spread of 15ft.

Training and Tree shapes

Peach trees are most commonly grown either as a standard bush, or as a fan

Propagating Peaches

Peaches are one of the few fruits that will grow successfully from seed. Plant the stones in autumn in individual pots of potting compost, grow them on in the pot for 12 months before moving to their final positions in the second year

Cuttings can also be taken from an existing tree, however these should be grafted onto a St Julien A rootstock.

Peach Varieties

Peaches blossom later than nectarines, so unless you are growing under glass or against a south facing wall, I would recommend sticking to a variety of peach. Look in the mail order catalogues for the best varieties. There is now a huge selection, and you should not find it difficult to find the variety to suit your needs.

Phyl @ The Allotment Gardener

Lifelong gardener and allotment enthusiast. Now have 3 allotments!

Website: allotment.uk.com
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