Peaches are a favorite fruit for growing in the home garden. There are hundreds of varieties of peaches available for the home gardener, but not all varieties are suitable for growing in every area. Check with your local county agricultural extension office for a list of suitable varieties of peach trees and for fertilizing and spraying schedules that are appropriate for your area.
Freestone peaches have flesh that falls away easily from the pit when the peach is eaten or sliced. They are the peach most commonly grown in the home garden and many improved varieties are now available. Freestone peaches are also commonly used for baking due to the ease of processing.
With clingstone or "cling" peaches, the flesh does not fall away easily from the pit. It was always thought clingstone peaches were the sweetest peaches until improved varieties of freestone peaches became available. However, the clingstone peach is still the preferred peach for canning because the flesh is firmer and holds up better in the canning process. This means the canning juice remains clear, which creates a better product.
Semi-cling or semi-freestone peaches are a cross between the clingstone and freestone varieties of peaches. The flesh clings to the pit until the fruit is fully ripe when it falls away from the pit. There is not an advantage in growing the semi-clingstone fruit and the number of varieties available for planting is limited.
Nectarines are simply peaches without the fuzzy skin. They are generally smaller than peaches and the skin has a stronger aroma. Nectarines have either yellow or red flesh and are used in cooking and fresh eating in the same manner as peaches. They are available in freestone and clingstone varieties.