Once peaches and nectarines could only be cultivated in greenhouses but new dwarf trees have been bred which are ideal for growing on a warm, sunny patio. We show you how to grow your own peaches.
About peach trees
There are dozens of different varieties of peach and nectarine to try but for pot-grown trees a dwarf variety is needed. We would recommend ‘Bonanza’ or ‘Garden Lady’ for yellow fleshed peaches in mid-season. If you prefer the smooth skins of nectarines then you could try ‘Nectarella’ or ‘Terrace Ruby’.
These terrace fruits need virtually no pruning. They’re naturally slow growing and stay quite compact, perhaps reaching only 1.2m to 1.5m (4ft to 5ft) in ten years. Growing them in pots also keeps the trees smaller than planting them in a border.
What to do
- Remember that these trees come from a warmer climate and don’t like to sit in boggy ground.
- Ensure your container is free draining and if there aren’t adequate holes in the base, then drill several at even intervals to to improve drainage and prevent waterlogging.
- Place potted trees in full sun.
- Trees under cover grow rapidly so always feed and water well. Mulching in early spring conditions the soil and encourages it to retain moisture.
- It’s better to do occasional copious watering than frequent light applications. If pruning, do so in spring.
Flowers and pollination
- Peach and nectarine trees flower extremely early in the year, so to enjoy their flowering display and prevent blooms being damaged by frost, move potted trees under cover from mid-winter.
- Pot-grown trees are best grown outside until the end of December, then brought into an unheated greenhouse or conservatory, where they’ll flower from February through to early April, depending on the variety.
- Encourage more fruit by pollinating open blooms by hand using a soft brush, particularly as few insects will be out so early in the year to do the job. Misting over the blossoms with a fine spray of water can also help.
- If a tree has a lot of developing fruitlets, thin them out. Start by removing every other one, leaving remaining fruits about 5cm (2in) apart. As fruits develop, thin them again to give remaining fruits enough space to swell and ripen.
- The more fruits kept, the smaller they’ll grow. However, a three or four-year-old tree should easily carry 20 fruits. Early varieties, like ‘Terrace Ruby’, should be ready in July, and later varieties through August into early September.
Harvesting and storage
- Harvesting time is dependent on crop type and variety. It’s best to pick the fruits when they’re fully ripe.
- Hold one in your hand and use your thumb to apply gentle pressure to the part of the fruit nearest to the stalk. If it ‘gives’ slightly the fruit’s ready. Peaches and nectarines are best eaten as soon as possible but they can be stored for a few days in a cool place.
Pests and diseases
- Peach trees can be attacked by aphids, birds, red spider mites, earwigs and root-knot nematodes. Diseases include botrytis, bacterial canker and peach leaf curl. However patio grown trees are less likely to suffer from these problems.
Five to try
- ‘Bonanza’ – a very slow, compact growing peach tree that needs no pruning
- ‘Garden Lady ‘ – a wonderful peach with yellow flesh that fruits in mid-season
- ‘Nectarella’ – good quality nectarine with orange red flesh and a ‘mop head’ of leaves
- ‘Terrace Ruby’ – pink flowers in spring and large, juicy, yellow fleshed nectarines in summer.
- ‘Nucipersica’ – will produce fruit in the first year after planting