As part of the replanting of our glasshouse we will be re-introducing peaches and nectarines to the east range, as we know from estate plans from the 1930s that these were once grown here.
We are choosing early ripening varieties renowned for their flavour. The key to success is to provide them with a still, sheltered, and sunny spot. Best results are from growing as a fan-trained tree against a southerly facing wall which will get sun for most of the day. A brick wall is best, as it will give off heat, but a wooden fence will give good results.
Peaches are relatively easy to grow once you have mastered their pruning needs. Early outdoor blossom should be protected from spring frosts with fleece or bubble wrap. Feed with a fertiliser high in potassium to promote fruiting.
One of the main problems can be peach leaf curl, a fungal disease which disfigures plants, causing puckering and blistering on the foliage and early leaf drop. This isn’t usually a problem if you grow plants under glass, but can be outside. We cover our outdoor peaches and nectarines with polythene frames over the winter. This keeps the plants dry and is highly effective at preventing the fungal spores, which need moisture, from germinating.
Under glass we will be growing three early varieties. ‘Amsden June’ is one of the first to ripen, in July. Flavour is good, although it isn’t the heaviest of croppers.
‘Duke of York’ has pale yellow flesh and the flavour is excellent. It crops heavily and produces large sized fruits.
‘Saturn’ is a newer introduction, with sweet, white flesh, producing flat-shaped fruits, often referred to as doughnut fruits.
Nectarines are not as vigorous as peaches and are lower yielding. They need the same growing conditions and can be trained as fans.
Under glass we are planting ‘Lord Napier’, which will ripen in late July and early August. Its white flesh is full of flavour and highly aromatic.
‘Pineapple’ is considered to be one of the finest flavoured varieties and needs to be grown under glass to guarantee a good crop, as it ripens in early September. It has yellow flesh with a flavour akin to a pineapple, hence the name.
It is one of the professional perquisites of the job that the head gardener gets to sample, purely for quality control you understand, the occasional peach, freshly plucked with the summer sunshine still warming the fruit. So the prospect of replanting is, literally, a mouth-watering one.