The peach is a hardy fruit, tougher than it looks. It will grow and ripen fruit successfully even in the north of England, given a south-facing wall. In the south it is often grown as a bush, but even there it grows better fan-trained against a wall or fence. The wall needs to be 2.1-2.4 m (7-8 ft) high, and 4.6m (15 ft) should be allowed for the spread of the fan when the tree is fully grown. Peregrine’, the most popular variety for growing outdoors, has a red skin, and ripens at the beginning of August. ‘Rochester’, which has apricot-coloured skin flushed with crimson and yellow flesh, ripens later, and should not be planted in the north. ‘Duke of York’, with yellow skin flushed with crimson, which ripens in July, deserves to be more widely planted, since it produces large, juicy fruit of fine flavour. Its only snag is that it is rather more vigorous than the others, and produces a large tree, but it should do well on less favoured sites.
General care: Peaches will grow in any well-drained soil, preferably with a little lime, although too much can cause chlorosis. A south-facing wall is best, especially in the north, or one with a western aspect. A northerly aspect is too cold, and an east-facing wall or fence can lead to frost damage to the flower buds. Prepare the wall with a series of horizontal wires about 25 cm (10 inches) apart, and plant three-year-old fan-trained trees early in
November. It is a good idea to collect the trees personally to make sure you get well-trained specimens.
Give a thick mulch of well-rottedimmediately after planting, and if the first summer is dry, water the young tree. every February, back to buds pointing in the right direction for continuing the fan shape, tie in the shoots to the wires, and in summer remove any young shoots that are going in the wrong direction, into or away from the wall, or not maintaining the fan pattern.
Peaches fruit on the previous year’s wood, and once they start producing,each autumn by cutting out the wood which has just fruited to a point just above the replacement lateral, which may then need tying to the wire. Maintain the fan shape at all times, since this keeps the tree fruiting by ensuring that the shoots are growing diagonally across the wall. Thin the fruits at the end of May, and again at the end of June if necessary, so you are left with peaches spaced about 22.5 cm (9 inches) apart.
Propagation: Peaches can be grown successfully from, including stones saved from fruit imported from, say, France, by planting the stones either direct into the ground where they are to grow, or into of compost for planting out later. The resulting trees will grow, often more strongly than budded or grafted trees, but the fruit may or may not be as good as the named varieties reproduced vegetatively by budding or grafting.
Pests and diseases: Birds will peck the ripening fruit, allowing it to be eaten by wasps. Net the tree if this is a problem. Peachcurl is the main disease: the get unsightly red blisters, twist and curl, and then drop off. The disease is difficult to control, because the spores overwinter in the shelter of the buds. Spray with Bordeaux mixture just as the buds begin to open in the spring, and again a fortnight later, and again just before leaf-fall in the autumn. Bacterial canker and silver leaf sometimes affect peaches— see under cherry.