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Growing Peaches and Nectarines: Prunus persica

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Peaches and Nectarines, members of the Prunus genus and the Rose family, are 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: The yellow or red skin is fuzzy (peach) or smooth (nectarine), the flesh is yellow or whitish, and slightly aromatic. The large, oval, red-brown seed is 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. They are ripe when they have reached full color, are soft and yielding, and have a strong fruity fragrance. If a fruit 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
'Arctic Star' Nectarine, semi-freestone, white flesh, 300 chill hours, self-fruitful, taste test winner.
'August Pride' Peach, freestone, 300 chill hours, self-fruitful.
'Donut' Peach, clingstone, white flesh, 200-300 chill hours, self-fruitful, taste test winner.
'Eva's Pride' Peach, freestone, 100-200 chill hours, self-fruitful, taste test winner
'Mid-Pride' Peach, freestone, 250 chill hours, self-fruitful.
'Red Baron' Peach, freestone, 250-300 chill hours, self-fruitful.
Wildlife: Attracts bees, birds, mammals.
Toxic / Danger: All parts poisonous except fruit. Seeds are toxic.
Origin: China. Peaches have been cultivated for more than 2000 years.

Cultivation and Uses

USDA hardiness zones: Low-chill cultivars are available that grow in zones 8-10.
Chill hours: Choose cultivars that need 300 chill hours or less.
Heat tolerant: Depends on cultivar.
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 once in early spring. Spread the fertilizer evenly out to the drip line and one foot away from the trunk. 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. Place a rodent guard at the base of 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 the 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 breed true.
Uses: Edible fruit.

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Peaches and Nectarines: Prunus persica - flowers

Peaches and Nectarines: Prunus persica - fruit

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Latest update: January, 2019