Peaches and nectarines are one of the glories of the fruit garden, a will o’ the wisp when it comes to spring blossom which is both beautiful but ephemeral. Those fruits are as juicy as anything being so deliciously sweet with their honeyed dew rolling down the chin. A nectarine is essentially a hairless peach – it just lacks some of the genetic material for making the fuzz you see.
They are best grown in the UK as a fan on a sunny south or south-west facing wall. peaches can grow as free standing trees in favourable parts. They are not grown in the far north because it is still too cold.
When mature, expect to harvest between 15 and 30lbs (7-14kg) of fruit from a fan trained tree and twice that amount from a bush tree.
Rootstock is all important for hardiness. Most are grown on the Krymsk 86 and Montclair rootstocks which restrict the size of the tree whilst encouraging higher yields and fruit size.
A bush tree grows to about 3.6m (12ft) in height and spread. A fan will grow to about 1.9m (6ft) on a fence panel and 3.6m (12ft) wide. Trees are planted from late November to mid-April onwards.
Issues: Peach Leaf Curl
A nasty fungal disease that causes real problems with productivity. There are really no chemical control available because they do not have any effect. The fungus causing the disease is Taphrinia deformans. The fungus causes severe distortion and curling of the leaf very soon after they burst from their buds in spring.
It mainly infects peaches and nectarines but don’t be surprised to see it on almonds, sometime apricots and even ornamental Prunus trees.
One way to reduce the impact is to keep the shoots dry overwinter with a tent or some other covering which I’m told is very successful. They need to be in place from November to mid-May. There are some varieties which have been claimed to have relatively high levels of resistance but this is not a solution to the problem. Avalon Pride which we mention below may fit the bill.
Varieties Of Peaches:
Avalon Pride – a variety of peach with very strong resistance to damaging peach leaf curl disease. A heavy cropper of large, yellow fleshed fruits with very good flavour. Season: early August.
Peregrine – First seen in 1906. Now a heirloom variety with a very well regarded flavour. Extremely juicy, sweet white flesh. Reliable cropper. Suited to outdoor growth on a warm wall in the south but best grown in a cold greenhouse in the north. Season: early August.