PEACH

Peaches probably reached Europe from China in the first century B. C. They were grown in Anglo-Saxon Britain. Roger of Wendover, in narrating the death of King John at Newark in 1216 from over-indulgence in peaches and ale, mentions no specific variety, and the first accounts of named kinds are not found until the sixteenth century. It was not, however, until the middle of the nineteenth century that any very important developments took place. Beginning in 1858, Thomas Rivers, the celebrated nurseryman of Sawbridgeworth, introduced a number of excellent peach varieties, as well as nectarines. The famous Peregrine, of excellent flavour and strongly recommended for outdoor cultivation, was first offered in 1904.

Cultivation:

Peaches can be grown successfully in the open. Outdoor planting of peaches would probably not be practicable in the colder districts in the north of England, but East Anglia with its dry summers and cold winters produces excellent specimens.

Peaches flourish on both heavy and light soils. There are, however, four provisos — a sunny and frost-free position, good drainage, sufficient lime and plenty of organic matter. On very light soils, staking may be necessary, but generally speaking, peaches are quicker to establish roothold than other stone fruits. One- or two-year-old bushes are recommended. Plant 20 ft. apart.

With young peaches, every effort should be made to produce really strong growth. Give a dressing of farmyard manure or compost in early spring to stimulate growth. A complete fertiliser should be applied in April. Peaches fruit on one-year-old wood and also on spurs. Do not allow fruiting the season after planting. Pruning should not take place while the bushes are dormant. Peaches produce an excessive number of shoots which should be thinned as soon as possible after budburst. Dead and/or diseased wood must be removed in late May or early June. Cut out all fruiting growths after the peaches have been gathered. The first thinning takes place when the fruits are about the size of a hazel nut, so that they are left about 3 or 4 in. apart. A second thinning is advisable when the fruits are the size of a walnut, this time to 12 in. apart.

How to Pick Peaches:

Peaches bruise very easily. A ripe peach gives off a definite aroma. The flesh round the stalk should give way to gentle pressure of the fingers.

Choice of Varieties:. Varieties like Peregrine and Duke of York which are ready to pick before September should be chosen for outdoor cultivation.

Insect Pests and Fungus Diseases.

Almond Aphid and Peach Aphid. Symptoms: Both young leaves and opening blossoms are attacked. Do not confuse the curling of the leaves with peach leaf curl, which is a fungus disease.

Treatment: A 5%tar-oil application in mid-December, as later applications may damage the buds. Derris or nicotine insecticides may be applied in spring and summer directly attacks are noticed. Peach Leaf Curl. Symptoms: Attack are mainly confined to outdoor peaches, including flowering varieties such as Clara Meyer and Russell’s Red. They are first observed when the leaves unfold, the thickened and puckered purplish-red leaves being very typical. Infected foliage ultimately dies, weakening the tree, with a consequent reduction in quality and quantity of crop.

Treatment: Apply Bordeaux mixture, lime-sulphur or a copper fungicide as the flower buds begin to swell, repeating 10 days later. Always remove diseased foliage.

Peaches on Walls:

Fan-trained peaches on south and and west walls are well worth trying, though pruning is tricky and the trees require ample space. Drainage must, of course, be perfect and light or medium ground overlying gravel, is ideal. Trees should be spaced not less than 18 ft. apart. They will blossom earlier than those grown in the open ground and protection against frosts in the form of netting or hessian curtain is advisable. The trees should be grown on wires fastened about 4 in. from the walls. Wires are spaced 12—15 in. apart and the growths tied in after pruning.

Pruning is more complicated than with bush peaches, the object being to encourage branches spreading evenly from the main stem at intervals of approximately 15 in. The lower branches should be allowed to develop before the upper.

Growths which have fruited are removed and new young or ‘replacement’ shoots tied in to furnish next year’s crop. If the tree is growing vigorously there will be an excess of young shoots which should be thinned out in early spring (this operation is termed ‘disbudding’). With wall peaches fairly drastic thinning of the actual fruits is desirable. Leave one fruit for every 9 sq. in. of wall.

Peaches from Stones. Unlike many fruits, peach trees raised from stones will eventually produce worth-while crops.

It is advisable to keep the stones in damp soil over the winter. The following March carefully crack them to free the kernels and plant 2 in. deep in the open garden. Do not allow the soil to dry out if there is a drought, but water freely until the seedlings have made some headway. They are then allowed to grow almost at will, although some gardeners cut back the main shoot after a couple of years to encourage the production of new branches. Trees should bear some fruit after 7 or 8 years.

Flowering Peaches. Ornamental or flowering peaches such as the varieties Russell’s Red, Clara Meyer, Iceberg and Palace Peach, frequently fruit well in the garden after a warm spring and early summer. Though they will not crop as heavily as the purely fruiting kinds, they are among the most beautiful of spring-flowering trees. Compared with flowering almonds, cherries etc., they are a little tender, preferring light, rich soil and a fairly warm, sheltered position. They are also less vigorous but this need be no disadvantage as they occupy less space and are consequently ideal for small gardens.

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