If you love feasting on stone fruit during summer, imagine picking your very own fresh peaches, nectarines, plums or apricots. If that sounds heavenly, then winter is an ideal time to plant a stone fruit tree or two, while the trees are leafless and dormant. Garden centres will be stocked with bare-rooted or potted stone fruit trees during winter and you'll be spoilt for choice.
For peach fans, look out for ‘Pixzee’ in the Trixzie® miniature fruit tree range from Fleming’s Nurseries. This is a delectable yellow fleshed peach, with full sized fruit, on a self-pollinating dwarf tree that reaches around 1.5 m tall and wide. Its compact size means it’s great for growing in a pot, but is just as happy out in the garden.
There are also 'columnar' peaches, which grow upright rather than in an open vase shape. Dwarf columnar 'Crimson Rocket' peach, reaching only 1 - 1.5m wide, has round fruit with yellow flesh, and its compact size makes it perfect for growing in tight spots and in pots. A Yates 40cm diameter Tuscan pot makes a stylish home for a dwarf stone fruit tree.
Check the plant label of your chosen variety to ensure it will suit your climate. In warm areas, choose varieties of stone fruit that require less ‘chilling hours’. Try growing a subtropical ‘Delight-FulPeach™’ , which is a red and yellow skinned peach with sweet and juicy yellow flesh, that will still be productive in warm climates.
Also check the label to see if your tree requires a pollinating partner. Most peaches and nectarines are self-pollinating, however many plums, apricots and cherries require a pollinator. Labels will usually suggest suitable choices.
When planting a new bare rooted or potted stone fruit tree, improve the soil in the planting hole with some Yates Dynamic Lifter Soil Improver & Plant Fertiliser. It’s a rich source of organic matter to promote improved soil health and structure and provides the newly establishing tree with gentle slow release organic nutrients.
In spring, deciduous fruit trees will burst into life, needing plenty of nutrients to support all the blossoms and new leaves.
At the end of winter, apply two handfuls of Yates Thrive Natural Citrus & Fruit Organic Based Pelletised Plant Food around the root zone of fruit trees and water in well. These pellets contains a special combination of organic ingredients, which nurture the soil, and a special blend of fast acting fertilisers to promote healthy leaf growth and encourage lots of flowers and fruit.
Most dwarf stone fruit trees require minimal pruning, apart from removing dead stems and thinning any crowded growth. However, for larger stone fruit trees, prune off any weak or dead growth and any stems growing into the centre of the tree (to allow in more sunlight). The aim is produce an open, vase shape, with three or four main outward pointing branches spaced around the tree. Also trim back branches that are too high for you to harvest from. It is helpful to know that peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots produce fruit on stems that are one year old, so it's important not to cut off all of last year's growth.
Apricot & cherry pruning tip - best pruned during summer, which helps the healing process and reduces the chance of disease.
Distorted and discoloured foliage on stone fruit trees, like peaches, nectarines and plums, is caused by a fungal disease called leaf curl. The tree ends up looking awful and in severe cases it reduces the tree’s ability to photosynthesise, which in turn can affect plant health and fruit yield. Winter is the time to act to prevent this disease, so, sprayers at the ready everyone!
Leaf curl disease spores lurk in bark crevices and around leaf buds during winter, waiting to infect the newly emerging foliage in late winter and early spring. Leaf curl is a disease that needs to be prevented by killing the disease spores before they infect the new leaves, as the damage done by leaf curl is irreversible.
It’s easy to break the leaf curl disease cycle and stop leaves from being affected by spraying stone fruit trees during winter with Yates Lime Sulfur.
Spray trees thoroughly with Yates Lime Sulfur while the trees are dormant and before bud swell.
Yates Lime Sulfur will also control other stone fruit diseases like freckle, rust and shot hole, which hide on fruit tree stems during winter, as well as some scale insects. Spray all stems and the trunk thoroughly before new foliage emerges. This will help give fruit trees a fresh start in spring, so they can concentrate on giving you a fantastic harvest.
Note on Yates Lime Sulfur – it does have quite a strong odour (it smells a little like rotten eggs), however it’s definitely worth putting up with the smell and applying during winter to help protect your fruit trees against a range of common diseases.