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Growing Peaches and Nectarines: Prunus persica

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A member of the Rose family and related to plums, apricots, and cherries.

Form: Tree.
Lifespan: 15-25 productive years.
Leaf retention: Deciduous.
Growth rate: Rapid.
Mature Size: 15-25' high and as wide.
Flowers: White, pink or red, five petals, solitary or paired, appearing before leaves develop. Flowers bloom on one year old wood. Late spring frosts can kill flowers and reduce fruit production.
Bloom: Mid-winter to spring, depending on local climate.
Self-fruitful: Yes.
Years before fruiting: 3.
Fruit: Yellow or red skin is fuzzy (peach) or smooth (nectarine), flesh is yellow or whitish, slightly aromatic. Large, oval, red-brown seed surrounded by a wood-like husk. Peach and Nectarine cultivars are divided into freestone and clingstone, depending on whether the flesh clings to the seed husk.
Months for fruit to ripen: 3-5, depending on cultivar. Ripe when fruit has reached full color, is soft and yielding, and has strong fruity fragrance. If it does not have the right scent, leave it on the tree for a couple days more.
Storage after harvest: Store in refrigerator for up to one week.
Leaves: Green, lance-shaped, turn yellow in fall.
Stems: Usually thornless.
Roots: Cuttings are grafted onto a compatible prunus seedling that is more pest and disease resistant.
Cultivars of Note
'Eva's Pride' Peach, medium to large size, freestone, 100-200 chill hours, very good flavor.
'Mid-Pride' Peach, large size, freestone, 250 chill hours, very good flavor.
'Tropic Snow' Peach, white flesh, medium size, freestone, 200 chill hours, very good flavor.
Wildlife: Attracts bees, birds, mammals.
Toxic / Danger: All parts poisonous except fruit. Seeds are toxic.
Origin: China. Cultivated for more than 2000 years.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: Low-chill peach cultivars are available that grow in zones 8-10, but 5-9 and 4-8 are more common.
Chill hours: Varies with cultivar. In USDA hardiness zones 9-10, cultivars needing 100-300 chill hours perform best.
Heat tolerant: Dependent on cultivar. Few nectarine cultivars produce fruit in temperatures over 100°F.
Sun: Full sun.
Drought tolerant: Moderate.
Water after becoming established: Weekly for fruit production. Extra water is needed in high temperatures.
Soil: Well drained, high in organic content, best at pH 6-7 (slightly acidic side of neutral).
Fertilize: Apply an organic fertilizer, such as compost with composted manure, once in early spring. Spread the fertilizer evenly out to the drip line and one foot away from the roots. Water immediately.
Mulch: Spread 2-3" deep of organic material around the tree, keeping it one foot away from the trunk, to keep roots cool in the summer. Use a rodent guard on the trunk to prevent gnawing.
Prune: In winter, remove dead, crossing or damaged branches. Flowers bloom on one-year-old wood. Remove excess marble-sized young fruit so that only one is present every 6-8" along branch.
Litter: Moderate leaf drop in fall. Wet fruit drop. Remove fallen fruit quickly to avoid attracting small mammals.
Propagation: Cuttings grafted on special rootstock. Seed does not come true.
Uses: Edible fruit.

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Peaches and Nectarines: Prunus persica - flowers

Peaches and Nectarines: Prunus persica - fruit

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