How to Care for Peach and Nectarine

A nectarine ready to eat. image by darkip: SXC.hu; KrzysztofB: SXC.hu,; Anette Kristensen: SXC.hu

Overview

Peach and nectarine trees are grown in similar manners. They require attention, as you need to inspect for pests and diseases regularly and make sure weeds don't grow near the base of the tree. Pruning is another matter to attend to if you want to have a successful, productive tree. The tree will repay your attentions with a lot of fruit, perhaps enough that you'll actually need to cull some to make room for good, healthy specimens.

Planting

Step 1

Choose a suitable location to grow your tree. Peach and nectarine trees require plenty of sun, including a lot of morning sun, which will dry dew and help prevent diseases. Soil should be well-draining, preferably sandy clay or sandy loam.

Step 2

Test the soil. The pH should be around 6.5 (acidic). If it's well below that, add hydrated lime. If it's above that, add ground rock sulfur. Adjust a 10-by-10 foot area for each tree.

Step 3

Purchase a 3-to-4 foot tree with a healthy root system. It should be about a year old.

Step 4

Soak the roots for several hours if they're dry. Cut off damaged parts of the roots sparingly, if necessary, with sharp garden shears or a knife.

Step 5

Plant the tree in a hole big enough not to cramp the roots at a depth that places the top of the roots only 1 or 2 inches below the surface of the ground.

Step 6

Work the soil in around the roots to remove air pockets. After you fill the hole, pack the area. The ground around the tree shouldn't be lower than the surrounding area.

Step 7

Soak the soil to remove air pockets among the roots. Add more soil, if necessary. During growing season, water enough to keep the soil from drying out.

Step 8

Mulch around the tree to control weeds.

Basic Care

Step 1

Prune the tree on planting day so that the lowest branch is 15 inches from the ground and the highest is about 30 inches. Only leave three to four branches spaced evenly around the plant to form a good base for an "open center" tree, which will end up being shaped like a wide-mouthed vase. This makes for better fruiting down the road.

Step 2

Weed regularly, keeping a 3-by-3 foot area around the tree weed free.

Step 3

Fertilize the tree after it has its first good soaking rain. Fertilize a 3-by-3 foot area around the tree with a cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer. In late spring and early August (as long as your harvest is complete), use 1/2 cup of calcium nitrate to fertilize over the same area.

Step 4

Prune again in early spring of the next growing season. Remove broken, diseased limbs. Prune growth that has shot up vigorously from the main branches that you established at the start, leaving small shoots. Prune growth that is shading out other limbs. The center of the tree shouldn't be dense with growth. Prune annually.

Step 5

Fertilize in early March and early August every year. In March, use as many cups of 10-10-10 fertilizer as the tree's age, or 10 cups (whichever is less). In August, use as many cups as the tree's age of calcium nitrate, or 4 cups (whichever is less).

Flowers and Fruit

Step 1

Pollinate the flowers, if desired, since there may not be a lot of bugs about yet--peaches and nectarines flower early. Dip a rabbit's tail or soft fine arts paint brush from flower to flower.

Step 2

Monitor for signs of disease and pests, and use a spray that contains fungicides and insecticides specifically geared toward peaches and nectarines.

Step 3

Thin developing fruit about a month after bloom so that the peaches are about 6 inches apart. This will ensure that each fruit develops its full sugar and taste potential.

Step 4

Pick fruit when it is ripe by giving it a twist. Refrigerate with space between fruits.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't allow fertilizer to concentrate around the tree trunk. Don't apply August fertilizer if your tree suffered a late freeze that claimed the crop. Don't prune in fall or winter. Pruning in early spring allows the tree to recover quickly and resist bacterial canker.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil pH test kit
  • Garden shears or sharp knife
  • Digging tool
  • Mulch
  • Pruners
  • 10-10-10 fertilizer and calcium nitrate
  • Rabbit's tail or soft artist's paintbrush
  • Fungicide/insecticide spray

References

  • The University of Georgia College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences Cooperative Extension Service; Peaches and Nectarine; M.E. Ferree and G. W. Krewer; 1996
  • Clemson Extension; Pruning Peaches and Nectarines; Bob Polomski and Greg Reighard; January 2000
  • Alabama Cooperative Extension; Controlling Insects and Diseases; Arlie Powell and David Himelrick; June 1999

Who Can Help

  • PH Adjustment Advice
  • Pruning Advice
  • 2009 Peach Pest Management Guide PDF
Keywords: growing peaches, growing nectarines, peach tree care, nectarine care, fruit tree care

About this Author

Sophie Johnson is a freelance writer and editor of both print and film media. A freelancer for more than 20 years, Johnson has had the opportunity to cover topics ranging from construction to music to celebrity interviews.

Photo by: darkip: SXC.hu; KrzysztofB: SXC.hu,; Anette Kristensen: SXC.hu