Summer may be something of a hit and miss experience in Scotland, but summer fruits are never in short supply. Â Here, Rebecca Hornsby and Anne Rowell extol the joys of peaches and apricots. Â Both stone fruits, they are very similar in the way they grow and flower and offer at least a taste of the sun…
Although only found naturally in the sub-tropical regions of Europe, the building of orangeryâ€™s in the 17th century first opened up the possibility of growing these delicious fruits in cooler regions. Originally, of course, this was a privilege for the well-to-do, however nowadays almost anybody can grow these sub-tropical fruits, if not in the garden, in a cool greenhouse. One of the main reasons for this is that through experimentation the hardiness of both types is now much increased.
Peaches and Apricots both need heat and a rich soil. They also appreciate some extra lime (200g per mÂ²) and lots of compost. If they are grown as tub plants you can add some clay to improve water retention.
If you have a warm, dry south-facing wall, try growing them in the ground as espaliers. However, remember that the fabulous fragrant blossom comes out as early as March and lasts until May, so you will need to protect them from frost.
Greenhouse grown plants need to be hand pollinated, using a small paintbrush, due to the lack of pollinating insects.
Peaches and Apricots are self-fertilising and can therefore be planted on their own.
Pruning Peaches – When you prune stone fruit trees like Peaches or Nectarines it is important to keep in mind that they only flower on last year’s wood, the branches that were formed the previous year. Therefore the trees have to be pruned every year to give new shoots a chance. The 50cm long shoots have leaf and flower buds in groups of three. These are the fruit bearing branches and they can be cut back to half their length every year. False fruit shoots with only flower buds can be pruned back to two to three eyes.
Pruning Apricots – Apricots flower on two or three year old wood, sprouting from the main branches of the tree. Therefore it takes a young tree three to four years to produce any fruit. After the harvest you can prune the branches back to a young shoot.
The dwarf peach ‘Bonanza’ is a self-fertile miniature peach tree which displays delightfully scented blossom, followed by tasty fruits that can be harvested in summer. The dwarf peach prefers a warm, sheltered spot and is suitable for growing in a tub on the patio or decking.
The apricot â€˜Gold Richâ€™ is a sub-tropical fruit tree that is easy to grow. It is smothered with pale pink blossom in May and can be harvested in August. This apricot is resistant to disease and is semi frost-hardy.
Depending on temperatures in the early summer you can expect ripe peaches and apricots from the end of July to mid-August. Pick the fruits as soon as they are slightly soft (do not squeeze them too often!) You should prevent them from becoming over ripe and falling.
To ripen-off the fruit fully, put them in sunny place like a windowsill. Do keep an eye on them as they can suddenly turn over ripe and mouldy. This happens all too regularly, so keep checking them and enjoy these delicious juicy fruits before it is too late.
(Originally published on 25 July 2014)