The weather this weekend
doesn’t exactly look peachy, but we’re plum loaded to the seams with the finest
quality plants for your garden. Bad puns aside, there are no flavors as
satisfying as these. I think half of the flavor of enjoyment is eating these
fleshy fruits ripe and at room temperature. A delicious nearly overripe peach
is indescribable. Even dealing with the syrupy mess that can accompany eating
any one of these fruits of “pitdom” is merely a minor inconvenience. You never
have to worry about peaches going bad around me. There is nothing better than a
wonderful apricot casserole (is it a dessert or is it a side dish?). No matter,
what I really want is a nectarine smoothie. One thing these fruits have in
common besides their seed is their growing likes. They all require the same
It’s never been easier to grow your own mouth-watering peaches, apricots, nectarines and plums (hereinafter referred to as PANP). Years ago growing stone fruit like PANP used to be considered difficult for many gardeners. Times have changed and due to a warmer climate and modern breeding, we now have varieties that are on greatly improved rootstocks.
The appropriate site and soil type is absolutely essential when growing PANP. As with most of the stone fruits, these trees do not tolerate poorly drained soils. If you have heavy clay, then you need to prep the site prior to planting these trees. Composted materials in many forms will be very beneficial: Manure, leaves, mulch, any organic plant material, and work the site deeply. If you do not have access to your own compost, or feel that your clay soil is especially poor, I suggest you consider using EarthMix® Premium Soil Conditioner (PSC). Here is where amending the soil is a necessity if yours is less than ideal. PANP require a deep, fertile, sandy loam. Dig the site deeply and at least 6 or so feet out from the intended tree site. Make sure the tree is higher in elevation, in a sunny site, in an area where cold air can drain away. When you bring home your tree, it will need to be trained to an open vase shape. Cut it back to about 24 to 36 inches, and cut the branches back to about an inch length. Prune out any weak or over-vigorous upright stems that might develop during this first year. Select four branches that are tending to grow horizontally and are evenly spaced around the trunk to about the same height. Prune out any branches that will grow in the center of the tree or below the scaffold branches (a scaffold branch is one of the primary limbs radiating from the trunk of a tree).
During the next year, trim back the scaffold branches by about a third, back to an outward growing branch. Trim the lateral shoots by about a third, and remove branches above and below the scaffold branches on the main trunk. If any new branches want to turn inwards towards the trunk, trim them out.
Over the next 3 to 5 years, continue to trim the branches back, especially vigorous branches. Maintain an open center to the tree, and shorten the scaffolds and lateral branches.
As the tree begins to mature, thin out old or dead wood, diseased wood, and keep the tree height overall low, to about 8 or so feet. Maintain the open vase shape. No more than 20% of the wood should be removed.
PANP fruits need to be thinned to about 8 inches apart. This will allow the remaining fruit to develop to its optimal size, and will prevent the weight of too many fruits from bending and breaking the branches.
Apply organic fertilizers according to recommendations in early spring. Use a well-balanced fertilizer such as Gardentone® and apply out to the drip line on these trees. It is highly recommend to use an organic based home orchard spray to help maintain healthy trees and fruits.
PANP trees are just very pretty trees: They are graceful in appearance with their spreading and semi-weeping form, they have lovely pink blossoms, and they have beautiful lance-shaped leaves. If these trees never fruited, they would still make a nice addition to any landscape.
So disregard the weather, put on your raincoat, grab your umbrella and come on out to see us, besides it isn’t raining in the annual house!
Have a peachy May,