Planting Peach Trees
Soil preparation should take place a month or two before planting to allow the addedtime to be absorbed into the existing . For planting a bush tree in open ground, dig thoroughly and deeply over an area of 2 sq m (2 sq yd), and at the same time mix in one barrowload of rotted garden or manure. About a week before planting, fork into the top 23 cm (9”) 120 g (4 oz) of a balanced fertilizer and the same amount of hoof and horn meal. If you are planting near a wall, a month before planting excavate a hole 1.8 m x 1 m x .75 m (6’ x 3’ x 2-1/2’) deep. Where soil drainage is poor, lay a tile drain 1 m (3’) deep and cover it with a layer 10 or 12 cm (4 or 5”) deep of gravel, pebbles or similar drainage materials. Add one part by volume of old lime, broken bricks and sand to 10 parts of returning soil. This helps improve the drainage, and lime from the mortar is slowly released into the soil. Fork in fertilizer and hoof and horn meal as for open-grown trees. Because peaches are vigorous by nature, do not over-fertilize the soil. This would only result in lush, sappy, wood and leaf growth at the expense of cropping.
Late autumn, when the soil is still warm, is the best planting time. Peaches start growth very early in the spring, so do not leave it later than this.
Training and pruning a bush
There are several advantages in growing peaches as bush-trained trees. Primarily, bush trees require much less pruning than fan-trained trees, and no de-shooting is required. This is because peach trees, when grown in the open, tend to produce less vegetative growth, and also less fruit. Fan-trained trees, given wall protection, crop more intensively and produce more fruit. Rochester is probably the best variety for training as a bush, but Peregrine, Hall’s Early and Bellegarde are also worth trying. Bush-trained trees are also relatively easy to spray, net and pick.
The pruning of a one- or two-year-old maiden peach to form a bush tree is the same as for an apple, except that a peach bush should have more branches in the centre. Once the tree is fully trained, and there is a sufficient framework of branches, the general aim in pruning is to provide a continual supply of new wood, on which the following year’s peaches will be carried. All necessary pruning should be carried out in late spring, after the blossom has set. Cut out any winter dieback to a healthy bud, and cut out branches which are growing weakly. If several buds part way down a branch have died, cut the branch back hard, to a healthy bud near the base of the branch. Do not prune any branches which are healthy and strong growing. As far as possible avoid making large pruning cuts because of the risk of disease, and paint over any unavoidable large wounds with protective sealer.
After cropping, encourage new fruiting shoots evenly over the tree by cutting back to a stub about a quarter of the fruited sideshoots.
The branches of established peach trees may eventually begin to droop. You should have a good supply of young, upright branches in the centre of the tree, which can be trained to replace the older, drooping ones. Either saw off the older branches completely, or cut them back to a suitably placed vertical shoot.
Training a fan from a maiden tree
You will need a wall 2.4 m (8’) high and at least 5 m (15’) wide. Wire the wall horizontally with 3 mm gauge wire at a spacing of 15-20 cm (6-8”) apart. The central leader of the fan will be pruned out, and the fan built up from two opposite diagonal branches. You can either buy a partially trained fan tree from your nurseryman, or buy a maiden tree and fan-train it yourself.
If you wish to train a fan, buy a one-year-old (maiden) tree, plant it in late autumn or winter and, in late winter, cut it back to about 60 cm (2’) above the ground to a healthy bud. Make sure that there are at least two good buds below this, as the first branches of the fan will grow from these buds.
In the first summer, when shoots have grown out from the dormant winter buds, select two healthy ones, opposite each other, to make your primary left and right branches. These should be 30-37 cm (12-15”) above the ground. Rub out all other growth on the main stem. When the sideshoots are about 45 cm (18”) long, tie them to two long bamboo canes with soft string, and tie .pruning point the canes to the wires at an angle of 45 to the ground, so that they are at an angle of 90 to each other. At this time, the main stem should be carefully cut out immediately above the upper of the two shoots, and the wound made smooth.
If one shoot grows more strongly, it should be temporarily lowered, by lowering the bamboo cane. This will slow the flow of sap and growth rate, until the other has caught up with it. In late winter, the two side branches are then shortened to a bud 30-45 cm (1—1-1/2’) from the main stem. During the following summer an extension shoot will grow from each of these buds, and will eventually be tied in. New sideshoots will grow along the length of the branches. Select two on the upper side of each branch, and one on the bottom, and tie them to the wires to form the framework of the tree. Prune out all other shoots.
In late winter, of the third winter the tree has spent in your garden, cut back these eight branches to a triple bud (consisting of flower and growth buds), leaving 30-45 cm (1-1-1/2’) of ripened wood. If the wall is large, and the framework does not yet fill its allotted space, you can continue this summer and winter schedule for another year; otherwise pruning is adjusted to stimulate fruit production.
If you buy a partly trained three-year-old fan tree, it will probably have between fifteen and eighteen shoots. Prune in early spring, at bud-break, removing one-quarter of all growth just above an upward pointing bud. This will stimulate the topmost bud and those behind to produce more shoots. Train on and tie the leading shoots; select others that are growing parallel to the wall and tie them in also, evenly spaced. Rub out while still tiny any snoots growing directly towards or away from the wall. The tree should begin to fruit the following year; thereafter prune it as an established fan.