Order peach and nectarine trees now for the fall

August 22, 2012
Peach trees will grow in a wide range of soils, but do best in deep, well-drained, fertile soils with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5.

Fame is fleeting and so are peaches.  Peach Melba is a dessert of fresh peaches with ice cream and berry sauce, named to honor Nellie Mitchell Melba, whose stage name of Melba honors her birth city of Melbourne.  Delicate Melba toast is also in her honor.  Peaches are delicate.  A peaches-and-cream complexion is a pure white skin with a rosy blush, just like a peach.  A person who is a peach is kind and delicate.

The fuzzy, soft skin of a peach means that these fragile fruits just cannot be shipped long distances. Whereas apples can be stored for months, a ripe peach is so delicate, it can only be stored a few weeks.

July and August are the months of peaches and their brethren, the nectarines.  Genetically, the only difference between peaches and nectarines is the lack of fuzz on the nectarine skin. Usually, nectarines are smaller than peaches and have more red color on the surface, and more aromas.

Though there are hundreds of different peach varieties, we divide them into two types, freestone peaches, whose flesh pulls apart easily from the pit, and clingstone peaches, whose flesh clings firmly to the pit. Peach flesh can be yellow or white.

The nectarine is simply a peach that lacks a single gene for fuzzy skin, though most nectarines are sweeter than peaches.

All peach and nectarine trees are self-pollinating, so you can grow a single tree and get full crops.

Order peach and nectarine trees now for fall planting.  Plant where they will get full sunlight.  Avoid damp areas.  Peach trees will grow in a wide range of soils, but do best in deep, well-drained, fertile soils with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5.  Since most fruit trees are grafted, be sure you keep the bud union or graft point an inch above the soil. If planted too deep, the tree can die.

Dig a hole large enough to fit all of the root system.

Cut off the tips of any large roots that are twisted or broken.  Immediately after planting, water well and tamp down the soil to remove air pockets.

Never put fertilizer into the planting hole because it can burn the tender roots.

For the first year after planting,  cut out any broken or diseased limbs. Prune any upright shoots and keep the center of your tree open.

Sometimes more baby peaches will form than the tree can support, so the fruit must be thinned.  When the young fruits are just about as large as a quarter, cut off some of the peaches so that the remaining peaches are eight inches apart.

Every year, in early spring, you can scatter fertilizer around the outer edge of the tree, being careful to keep the fertilizer away from direct contact with the tree trunk.  You can also give trees a light feeding of compost or aged manure during the late winter.

For a better harvest, be sure your peaches and nectarines get enough water.

You can even grow peaches and nectarines from seed, even though the fruit might be unpredictable.

Reliance peach is an especially hardy peach that does well where others fail.  Reliance is late blooming so avoids problems with frost damage. The Rochester peach is an old-time favorite that is still going strong due to the long harvest season.  It has gorgeous pink flowers, followed by firm peaches with marbled freestone flesh. Rochester does well in a wide range of soils.

Another old-time favorite is the Champion White peach whose white fleshed fruit ripens in mid-August. This reliable freestone variety is highly recommended for the home garden.  Champion White peach trees are large and vigorous.

Eat peaches now, whether in Peach Melba or out of hand, and order trees for planting this fall.  Every year you will have peaches galore and every spring will be rewarded with peach blossoms, Delaware’s state flower.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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