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Stone Fruits 2 (Peaches, Nectarines, Almonds, Sour Cherries)

 

The following information applies to peaches, nectarines, sweet almonds and sour (cooking) cherries. For guidance on plums, gages, damsons, sweet cherries & apricots refer to ‘Stone Fruits 1’

 

Planting

Peaches, nectarines and sweet almonds need a sunny site and a neutral soil to crop well, a pH of 6.5-7.5 is ideal.  Morello cherry can be planted in sun or partial shade.

Plant your trees as soon as possible after receipt, allowing sufficient space for them to grow. Bush trees will grow 3.6-4.6m (12-15ft) in height and spread.

Should weather conditions be adverse (i.e. if the ground is frozen or too wet to plant), then the trees should be temporarily heeled in until conditions improve. Dig a hole or shallow trench, lay the trees at an oblique angle and cover the roots loosely with sufficient soil or compost so that no roots are exposed to the air.

Improve the soil structure by thorough digging before planting, ideally to a depth of about 45cm (18in) - two spades deep. Mix in plenty of well-rotted manure or compost.

Soak the root system in water for 1-2 hours. Dig a hole comfortably large enough to take the root system (so the roots can be evenly spread out), ensuring the top of the root system is level with the surrounding soil or up to 2.5cm (1in) deeper. Apply rootgrow mycorrhizal fungi (available from Pomona Fruits) directly to the roots before planting - this will help the tree to establish quickly. Tread firmly and water-in thoroughly. Stake the tree and secure with tree ties to prevent rocking whilst the roots establish.

TO GROW IN A POT Sibley’s Patio Almond, Sibley’s Patio Nectarine and dwarf  peaches and nectarines such as  ‘Crimson Bonfire’, ‘Diamond’ and ‘Snow Baby’ can be grown in pots. Initially pot your tree up into a container that is approximately 30-40cm (12-15in) in diameter using a good quality free draining loam based compost such as John Innes No. 3. The pH. should be relatively high (between 5.5 and 7).

 

Watering

Keep the soil around the tree moist throughout the first growing season. In later years only water during prolonged dry spells, drenching thoroughly no more than once a week.

IF GROWING IN A POT Your tree will need daily watering during the growing season, in extremely hot dry weather maybe even twice a day.  Aim to keep the compost moist at all times, but do NOT leave it standing in water or you risk drowning the roots.

 

Weeding & Mulching

Keep the area around the tree free of weeds, particularly during the first year. An annual mulch of well rotted compost will greatly improve moisture retention and soil structure, and help suppress unwanted weeds.

 

Pruning

Stone fruits should only be pruned between late April and late August. Paint any open wounds with tree or canker paint to minimise the risk of silver-leaf or canker infection. Peaches, Nectarines and Sour (Cooking) Cherries fruit on the previous season’s shoots, so it is important to encourage plenty of new growth each year.

FOR A BUSH TREE – Following planting, in late April, prune back the leading shoot to the height at which you want the head to form. Over the next two years, in April, cut back all shoots to form a balanced 'bush' framework. In later years prune in spring, cutting back older growths to vigorous 1-year old side shoots and remove any broken, crossing or tangled branches. Aim to remove about a fifth (20%) of the tree each spring, keep the centre of your tree open to sun and air.

FOR A CORDON – If you have taken receipt of Morello cherry as a cordon, then no pruning will be required until mid/late summer. When the new growth on the leader reaches 30-40cm (12-15in), pinch out the growing tip to encourage side growth. Repeat this process as necessary. When the new growth on the side shoots reaches 15cm (6in), cut back by half, close to a leaf. Repeat the same process as necessary on all further new growth. In the second and subsequent years carry out pruning as in the first year until the desired height is reached after which time any excessive growth above this point should regularly be cut back to a leaf above that point. Any new side growth should be regularly trimmed back to 8cm (3in) spurs.  Every few years the spurs will need to be shortened back and thinned out to retain a columnar shape.

FOR A FAN – Plant your tree 45cm (18in) from a wall or fence, cut back to about 60cm (2ft) high. Then in summer tie out 8-10 strong shoots (leaders) in a fan. In later years, cut one fifth (20%) of the old, unproductive branches back to vigorous 1-year side shoots which are then tied back to make the new leader and shortened by a third. Any long new growth not used as a leader should be trimmed back to 15cm (6in) spurs.

FOR PATIO TREES – Dwarf varieties of peach and nectarine such as ‘Crimson Bonfire’, ‘Diamond’ and ‘Snow Baby’  require only minimal pruning, just remove any dead, diseased, crossing, crowded or broken branches and trim the tree to shape it if required. Sibley’s pot-grown patio trees have their top growth naturally restricted by the limited root-run available in the pot. They therefore need virtually no pruning, just trim back any vigorous wayward shoots to shape the tree as desired.  We recommend aiming for an open-centred goblet-shaped tree. This will aid both cropping and the tree’s natural resistance to pests and diseases.

 

Feeding

Most garden soils contain sufficient nutrients for a tree to grow healthily, though a high potash top-dressing such as Fruit Feed during the spring can be beneficial. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers (such as chicken manure) which stimulate shoot growth rather than flower bud and fruit formation.

IF GROWING IN A POT Your tree will need regular feeding during spring and early summer with a high potash (low nitrogen) feed. For application rates follow the instructions on the packaging. To keep the tree growing healthily it will also need fresh compost to root into each year.  In the early years this is best done by potting the tree on into progressively larger pots. Once the final pot size has been reached (we would recommend a pot that is 45-50cm [18-20in] in diameter), remove the tree from the pot in late winter each year, cut or chop away about a third of the rootball from the bottom, part fill the pot with fresh compost and re-pot
.

 

Pests & Diseases

As well as providing a general boost of trace elements a copper spray applied in autumn may help toughen up your tree. A further application in late winter may also help its natural resistance to many infections such as peach leaf curl and bacterial canker. In any prolonged wet periods in summer a further application may also be beneficial.  Any chemicals should be used in accordance with the manufacturers instructions.

Peach leaf curl is a common disease in the UK affecting peaches, nectarines and sweet almonds. It is a fungus causing red blistering of the new leaves in spring. The spores germinate during cold, wet conditions in late winter,the warmer summer temperatures then return it to dormancy. It has little long-lasting effect on the tree but looks awful and is likely to reduce crops. As a preventative measure cover wall-trained trees with a clear polythene sheet between January and Mid May, leaving a 30cm (12in) gap at the bottom and open sides for pollinating insects to gain access. This prevents winter rains washing the spores into the new buds, largely eliminating the infection. Where possible move container grown trees into a cold well-ventilated greenhouse. Remove and destroy any infected leaves from the tree as soon as they are seen.

In a garden setting there should be little need for any other regular spray programme but do watch out for signs of any pests and diseases.

 

Further Information

For further information refer to RHS Growing Fruit by Harry Baker. Useful information can also be found on the RHS website.
 

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