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Jamie’s Little Allotment: Gardening tips for growing peach trees

In his weekly Jamie’s Little Allotment column, gardener Jamie Marsh teaches ou how to grow your very own peach tree...

Pockets of colour are starting to appear everywhere now.

A clump of daffodils, a lonesome hyacinth waiting to be joined by the other spring bulbs, and the nodding flowers of the Hellebores tucked away in the border, with their pastel purples and yellows.

Peach trees can be grown in the UK, writes our columnist
Peach trees can be grown in the UK, writes our columnist

The flowers I’m really interested in and excited about at this time of year are the beautiful pink blooms on my little peach tree.

At three years old, this year it’s going amazingly well. It’s a very common peach tree, Prunus Persica, Peregrine, a very well deserved present to myself from an independent garden centre, pot grown at about 4ft tall.

Many people don’t realise you can grow peach trees successfully in the UK, but as I’m now going to tell you, you really can.

How should you plant the trees?
How should you plant the trees?

Prunus can grow really well here as long as you follow a few guidelines.

When you have purchased your tree and you are looking for a permanent position for it, be mindful that ideally a south or west-facing aspect is what it needs – full sun and as much shelter as possible.

I always love to see the beautiful fan trained or espalier fruit trees – this was the intention of mine right from the start.

I had my position chosen before I’d even got the tree; south, westerly facing and up against the rear brick wall of our garage was absolutely perfect.

You will need to add something for the tree to be attached to on the wall.

I used some wire netting which I fixed to the wall so there are multiple possibilities for tying in points, but you could also use several horizontal wires.

‘Fan-trained’ sounds like exactly what it is – shaped like a fan.

But unless you spend lots of money on a tree which is several years old, and has already been trained by the nursery, yours will come in a normal tree shape.

You will need to do some initial pruning to achieve the start of your fan. What you are ideally looking for is as many branches which are growing directly away from each other, so walk around your tree looking for this to start with.

Any substantial branches which are growing at 90 degrees from the pre-chosen ones will have to be removed.

Pruning a young peach tree should ideally be done in spring when the buds are opening. This is because the tree is actively growing and will heal the cut site rapidly to stop infection.

Once you’ve removed the unwanted branches, it’s time to plant it.

Peaches love a well drained soil with lots of nutrients. A big hole will be needed to be dug, bigger than the pot that it stands in, so you can fork in some well rotted manure of compost.

The trunk ideally should be roughly 25cm away from the wall, to give it room to grow. You can test your hole size by sitting the tree in the hole in the pot – the soil level should be the same level as it was when it’s been in the pot.

Once your hole is prepared, knock the pot off the root ball and place it in the hole. You will have to angle it slightly back to the wall.

With the tree in the perfect upright position and the branches touching the wall, back fill the hole and heel it in well.

Now the little tree is nice and firm in its new home, it’s time to start tying the branches in.

You are looking for that fan shape we’ve been talking about.

Start at the bottom two branches. They need to be horizontal to each other, and because it’s a young tree most of the branches will bend slightly.

I tie mine a few times along the branch to the pre-installed netting or wires, not too tight but just to keep the branch where you want it.

I use natural jute garden string for this as it’s quite soft and won’t damage the bark.

Do the same for all the side facing branches, trying to space them as evenly and uniformly as possible.

Once all tied in, you will see any out of place branches which can be snipped off.

Give the new tree a good water. A good water in my book for a new tree is a full watering can – you will need to keep it watered for the first year until the roots have established.

There are just a couple of other things I will mention to you. Peach trees are generally hardy, but their blossom opens very early in spring, so is susceptible to frost damage, which can reduce the crop – so protect the flowers overnight if frost is forecast using some fleece.

Also, if I know there’s going to be heavy rain, I’ll cover the tree with some plastic to try and stop peach leaf curl.

You will see dozens of small fruits appearing in the summer, but my last tip to you is, for the first few years while the tree is still young, remove 75% of the immature fruit.

This is called thinning – it will improve the size of the remaining fruits because the young tree is using lots of its energy to get established, so removing most of the baby fruit will ensure the peaches which you have left will be good ones.

That’s it – your fan-trained peach tree is ready to give you some amazing fruits.

As always, feel free to email me with any questions to Jamieslittleallotment@gmail.com

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