Thousands of years ago, it is believed that Peaches were cultivated in China. Eventually, they were brought along the ancient trading “Silk Route” from China to the Middle East where they were cultivated for many centuries. Subsequently, it is believed that the Romans introduced Peaches to Europe. The name “Peach”, is from the early belief that they were native to Persia, now Iran.
Peaches can be “freestone” or “clingstone” depending on whether the stone comes away easily from the Peach flesh. Peaches with white flesh are usually very sweet with low acidity, while Peaches with yellow flesh are usually both sweet and acidic. There is also a flattened peach with a sunken centre available, which is claimed to be very sweet.
Peach trees need a chilling period in the Winter and apparently can withstand up to -26 C. However, the flower buds will be killed at temperatures below -15 C, and the tree will not produce any fruit.
In the North of the UK, only consider growing them under cover in a poly tunnel, greenhouse or conservatory, not only to protect the flower buds from frosts, but also to get the fruit to ripen. In the south of the UK, if growing outside choose a sunny, sheltered position, say against a South-facing wall and fan train them to encourage them to fruit early.
Pixy is a recommended rootstock for small trees grown in pots, where the tree will reach some 2.5 m height.
St. Julien “A” is a common rootstock for growing peaches on walls, and Peaches grown on it and trained as a fan, will reach a height of some 2 m and a spread of some 4 m.
Myrobalan rootstock, which is classed by the RHS as a vigorous rootstock, is also being used.
Varieties available for pot growing.
Genetic dwarf Bonanza. This is claimed to be suitable for growing in a 60 cm pot filled with John Innes No 3 compost and should fruit in July/August.
Garden Lady. Also suitable for growing in a 60 cm pot filled with John Innes No 3 compost, and should fruit in August.
Traditional Varieties for fan training.
Peregrine. This is the variety that is often recommended for growing in the South of the UK, and the white fleshed fruit should ripen in August.
Rochester. This variety is also often recommended for growing in the South of the UK, and ripens in August. The flavour of this yellow fleshed peach is not considered to be as good as that of Peregrine. However, Rochester flowers quite late and therefore may miss the early frosts.
Flattened Peach Saturn. Claimed to ripen in August.
Spring prune peaches
To get a decent yield you need to follow a precise spring pruning regime for the first three years. The first April, prune the single straight stem to around 60cm (2ft) above ground level making sure there are at least three strong buds below the cut. Any remaining shoots can be removed. The second April, cut back both side extensions to 45cm (18in) from the main stem, just above an upward facing bud to encourage it to shoot. In June, select three shoots on each side and tie to supporting canes. Other shoots can be pruned to two leaves, all inward growth toward the wall or fence can be removed and outward growth can also be pruned to two leaves.
Peach trees are fairly untroubled by pests, although you may need to watch out for any large aphid infestations. Aphids are not a problem if they exist in small numbers and they provide food for ladybirds, lacewings and hover-fly larvae. If they accumulate around the growing points of the tree, however, you may need to give them a blast with your water hose to send them on their way.