Do you grow your own peaches or nectarines at home? If not you should give them a try. They are an easy and (pardon the pun) fruitful tree to grow. Peach trees are native of China and belong to the Prunus species. The peach trees that are being grown in orchards today have a long history. Today orchard grown peaches are divided into two groups, clingstones and freestones. If the peach flesh sticks to the pit, it is a clingstone. Conversely, if the flesh falls away from the pit easily, it is freestone. Peach fruit has varying levels of acidity, and generally, the white fleshed peach is the least acidic. Yellow fleshed peaches tend to be more tangy and acidic. Fertilization or soil types do not affect skin colors of either the peach or the nectarine. Peach fruit and nectarine fruit are often thought of as totally unique fruits. In fact, the nectarine is closely related to the peach. The main difference is the lack of fuzz on the nectarine skin. The nectarine can be used in the same way as a peach. The nectarine tends to be a little smaller fruit than a peach, and it displays more red color on the skin.
Raising peach trees in the backyard is not much different than raising them in an orchard setting. Selecting a location for planting is important. There are at least two reasons, soil and sunlight requirements. The peach tree bloom is susceptible to early frosts, so planting a peach tree in the lowest part of the yard would be counter productive. It is best to select a high spot in the yard so the cold air can drain away from the trees when they are in bloom. The peach tree blooms are very susceptible to frost, so a season's fruit production may be lost because of a few lower degrees of temperature.
Before planting the peach tree, prepare the soil one or two years prior to planting. Modify the soil with organic matter, and check the nutrient status. The soil pH for peach and nectarine trees should be around 6.5, so it is important to get the soil tested. Then lime and fertility levels should be modified based on the soil test results. Add manure, peat moss, or compost to modify the soil texture.
Peach or nectarine trees will not tolerate water logged soils. If water sets in an area for more than one hour after a rain, find another location for the nectarine or peach tree.
Pruning peach or nectarine trees should begin at an early age. Most fruit trees produce better quality fruit, and live longer and healthier if properly maintained and pruned. Fruit tree pruning does not need to be complicated or confusing. Many times the nursery will do the initial pruning on the dormant fruit tree. If the fruit tree arrives already pruned from the nursery, plant it without further pruning.
If the dormant bareroot tree arrives with long branches and over 3 foot tall, prune the tree to knee high and cut the side branches back by at last 2/3 to promote vigorous new growth. Top pruning induces lateral branch growth in fruit trees , and this produces a more easily accessible tree branch and shapely form. Pruning also diverts the expenditure of nourishment to form woody growth to that of buds and fruit.
Fruit trees are fast growing. After the spring flush of growth cut the new growth back by half. In late summer prune the new growth on the branches back again by half. The 2nd year pruning of the fruit tree is the same as the first. Cut back new growth by half in the spring and again in late summer. In the 3rd year, choose a height and do not let the tree get any taller.
Tree height is a decision for the pruner. When there are vigorous branches above the chosen height, cut back or remove them. In late spring or early summer, pinch back all new growth. Size development and low fruiting wood is determined in the 3rd year.
Each branch should have at least 6 inches of free space around them. Remove all crossing branches that are too close together. Keeping fruit tree branches open to allow more light and freedom for bee movement is important. Sunlight and bees carrying pollen should increase productivity and create larger fruit.
All varieties of fruit trees can be maintained at a predetermined height, if pruned consistently.
If you even have an inkling to grow one of these trees, give it a try. You won't be disappointed!