English Peaches - according to Mrs. Beeton

In February, peaches and nectarines on walls need un-nailing and pruning. Thin out the shoots until they lie about 6 inches from each other, and shorten as necessary. If very strong, shorten a little or leave alone. If a shoot is very weak, cut back to a double bud (one leaf bud between two flower buds). Then tie back onto the wall with fresh nails and string. The shoots will need thinning and disbudding in the summer.

In March, protect the buds from bad weather and birds.

Stone fruit bear chiefly on the last year's wood. These shoots are about 12 to 18 inches in length. On such shoots there are many wood buds which will break into growth as the sap rises. At the end of April, some of these should be gradually removed, say two at a time at intervals of about a week. Leave the best ones to form next year's fruiting wood. The end shoot of the branch should be stopped to divert the sap into the fruit and wood buds which are left.

You need protection from spring frosts. Also look out for aphids on unripened shoots; spray if necessary.

In May, stop all leading shoots. Pinch off to a few buds all shoots not required to fill up spaces on the wall. Thin partially all fruit where it is thickly set, but reserve the final thinning until the fruit has stoned. Mulch the trees to prevent evaporation.

In June, where the leading shoots of peaches and nectarines are growing too strongly, stop them in order to encourage laterals. If you omit this, the shoots do not get properly ripened. If the fruit has set too thickly, thin it partially, but, as said for last month, leave the final thinning until it has stoned. The trees should now be watered copiously so it does not require frequent repetition. Pour the water into the roots.

In July, peaches and nectarines are ripening rapidly. They should be exposed to the sun to give them colour. Keep the shoots laid in closely, and remove obstructing leaves, but leaving enough for the fruit to develop properly. (30 to 40 leaves per fruit? - ND) Suspend nets, supported by short stakes, under the tree as the ripening period approaches, to catch any falling fruit, with soft material in the net to soften the fall. Fine mesh netting should be used to keep out unwanted insects. (Also ... net against birds - which will be attracted by the bright red fruit - ND) Strong shoots that have been stopped have now sent out laterals. These should be thinned to the number needed to cover the wall, so that they can ripen in the August sun. Should mildew appear, use sulphur. If insects attack, use soft soap and syringe afterwards with water. Don't let it touch the fruit.

"All pruning with peach and nectarine should be done with finger and thumb" - Mr. Rivers.

If there is luxuriant growth or straggling branches, cut out after the fruit has been picked.

(paraphrased from Mrs. Beeton's book of Garden Management, c1860; republished 1890s)

Nigel Deacon

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