Growing peaches and nectarines through the year
Bare-rooted trees should be planted on a mild day any time from November to March. Container-grown trees can go in at any time.
Although they're hardy in the UK (apart from the far north), the blossom and young fruits are vulnerable to frost. Grow your trees against a south- or west-facing wall, or in a pot, which you can move under cover for winter.
Peaches and nectarines will tolerate most soils, but before planting dig in plenty of well-rotted garden compost or manure. If you have clay soil, improve drainage by filling the bottom of the planting hole with rubble. Plant your tree so the top of the rootball sits level with the soil’s surface and the stem is at least 20cm away from the wall. Prepare a framework of wires ready to tie in the stems as they grow.
To plant a tree in a pot, fill the bottom with pea gravel (to improve drainage and stability), then fill with a soil-based compost. Leave a gap between the compost and top of the pot for easy watering. Never let compost dry out.
Tending the crop
Water regularly, especially when fruits are forming. At blossom time, sprinkle a general fertiliser, such as pelleted poultry manure, around the tree. Follow with a mulch of garden compost or well-rotted manure.
Even though peaches are self-fertile you can encourage fruiting by hand-pollinating flowers using a soft brush and misting with water. When fruits are cherry-sized, thin out to one per cluster.
When the fruits are swelling, apply a high-potash liquid fertiliser, such as tomato feed, once a week.
After harvesting comes pruning. Peaches and nectarines flower and fruit on one-year-old shoots, so remove as much of the old growth as possible. Cut back a fruit stem to where a new shoot has grown, then tie in the new growth as a replacement.