Peaches & Nectarines are a real sweet treat!

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Peach blossoms - Image by jaqueline macou from PixabayPeach blossoms - Image by jaqueline macou from PixabayLearn everything about growing peaches & nectarines: Pruning, watering, feeding and spraying, companion planting, common pests and diseases, their health benefits and a lot more. Twenty six varieties of peaches and nectarines are discussed, each with a ‘mouth-watering’ photograph.

Nothing tastes better than a peach fully ripened by the sun with its sweet juice dripping down with each bite, and once you’ve taken that first bite there’s no going back to store-bought peaches. Peach trees come in a large variety of flavours and colours and the many cultivars are used in various ways. All are good for eating, but some are better than others for bottling or making jam and chutney. Peaches are also easy to grow in regions of South Africa which have long hot summers and chilly winters.

Peaches ripening in the sun - Image by Bruno Germany from PixabayPeaches ripening in the sun - Image by Bruno Germany from PixabayPeaches and nectarines are the same species, even though they are regarded commercially as different fruits. The major difference is that peaches have a fuzzy skin surface while nectarines have a smooth skin, and on average, nectarines are slightly smaller and sweeter than peaches. And, as with peaches, nectarines can be, clingstone or freestone.

Peaches and nectarines (Prunus persica), like the plum and the apricot, are members of the beautiful rose family (Rosaceae), and today they are grown throughout the warmer temperate regions of both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Nobody knows for sure how old these ancient trees really are, but we do know that over 4 000 years ago the beautiful peach tree was seen as a symbol of long life and immortality by scholars and medicine men in ancient China and Tibet, where peaches grew wild and where they were first believed to have been domesticated along the Yangzi River, where fossilised peach stones were found. Today, true wild peaches are only found in China, but unlike the cultivated fruit, the wild fruit is small, sour, and very fuzzy.

Modern Chinese culture still reveres the peach as the tree of life and for this reason peach blossoms are carried by Chinese brides today, the blossoms are still hung on doorposts at the start of each New Year, and the fruits remain a traditional birthday gift.

From China, peaches travelled west via the silk roads to Persia, earning them the botanical name Prunus persica which means “present from Persia”, referring to the Persian introduction of the Peach to the Romans.  By around 50 to 20 BC the Romans, who called peaches “Persian apples”, were growing and selling peach trees at very high prices, and transporting the plants north and west to many other countries of their European empire.

After conquering Persia, Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great, a king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon and a member of the Argead dynasty, documented half a dozen types of peaches. He is credited with finding dwarfed apples in Asia Minor, which he brought back to Greece, and these may well have been the progenitors of dwarfing rootstocks. Having introduced them to the Greeks, it wasn’t long before they spread to Spain and France, and thanks to Indonesian traders East Africa received their first peaches Around 800 AD.

Peaches reached even further in the 1500’s when the Spanish and Portuguese were exploring the Americas, at the time of the Aztecs and Incas. Spanish explorers are also credited with bringing the peach to England and France where it became quite a popular, but rare treat. It was well known that peaches were a favourite of Queen Victoria's for dessert, and it is said that no meal was complete without a fresh peach presented in a fancy cotton napkin.

In the early 17th century, English colonist George Minifie planted a peach tree at his home in Virginia, and this is thought to have been the first peach tree planted in North America. They quickly became a favourite of the early American Indian tribes who helped in their spread by planting peach trees wherever they travelled. In 1768 Thomas Jefferson planted peaches at his estate called “Monticello”; and one of America's fondest legends, affectionately known as "Johnny Appleseed" - a folk hero and pioneer apple farmer in the 1800's brought apple seeds from Pennsylvania and planted them in the Midwest, and it is said that he would travel hundreds of miles to prune his orchards, which were scattered throughout the wilderness. And, there really was a Johnny Appleseed and his real name was John Chapman, born in Leominster, Massachusetts in 1774. His dream was to produce so many apples that no one would ever go hungry again, and so he did.

However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that commercial peach production began in Maryland, Delaware, Georgia and Virginia, and today peaches are grown commercially in California, Washington state, South Carolina, Georgia and Missouri.

Today China remains the largest world producer of peaches, with Italy second. California produces 175 different varieties and more than 50% of the peaches in the United States. And, so many peaches are grown in Georgia that it became known as the “Peach State”.

In South Africa peaches were one of the first fruits planted in the Western Cape after the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in 1655, and by 1892 peaches were one of the most planted trees in the Cape Colony, along with nectarines. In January 1892 the first peaches were exported from South Africa to England on board the Drummond Castle steamship, and to the delight of everyone they received much better prices than were initially expected.

Most of South Africa’s peaches are produced in the Western Cape region. Ceres is the leading dessert (freestone) peach production area, followed by Piketberg, the Northern Province, Klein Karoo, Wolseley, Tulbagh, and Paarl. Small volumes are also produced in the Free State, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Langkloof and the Hex River Valley.

The Klein Karoo accounts for almost half of the cling peach production in the country, with relatively large volumes coming from Ceres, Wolseley, Tulbagh, the southern Cape and Worcester. Small volumes are also produced in Villiersdorp, Vyeboom, the Hex River, Langkloof East, Piketberg and Mpumalanga.

The South African production season runs from October to March, depending on the variety and region. This allows the country to export fruit to the Northern Hemisphere once their season is over. However, South Africa is still a small international player, accounting for a little over 15% of the peaches produced in the Southern Hemisphere. Our main competitors for the European and Asian markets are Chile, Argentina and Brazil.

Peach and nectarine production is divided into two types: “cling” and “dessert”, and luckily for home gardeners they are self-fertile, meaning their blossoms contain both male and female parts, and they don't need pollen from another tree to produce fruit. However, they do need to be pollinated by insects.

“Cling” types have a stone that tends to cling to the flesh of the fruit, making it difficult to remove the pip without damaging the flesh. These peaches are primarily used for canning and the making of purees, jams and jellies.

Dessert types are called “freestone” because the stone is easy to remove without damaging the flesh. Some dessert types are also categorised as “semi-clingstone”. Dessert types are generally larger, firmer and less juicy than cling varieties, and are usually sold in the fresh market, although they may also be used for canning and baking.

If peach and nectarine trees are pruned in the traditional manner they will generally grow +-4m tall with an equal or even greater spread. However by using ancient techniques like espalier, or more modern pruning techniques, they can now be grown in small spaces. Click here to read our article: “So you say you don’t have space to plant fruit trees?”

Remember that peaches and nectarines will need to be sprayed regularly, and it and it is far better to do preventative spraying on a regular basis, rather than trying to fight an existing pest or disease.  Early fruiting varieties are less susceptible, but if you wish to extend the season with later varieties, you will need to spray.

Budget to purchase your sprays and spraying equipment like a high pressure sprayer along with your trees – there’s nothing worse than noticing that your fruit tree requires spraying and you have nothing to spray it with. Your local garden centre will be able to advise you on which sprays are essential, and whether you select to use organic sprays or not, the beauty of growing your own fruit is that you are in control. Be sure to read Pests & Diseases below.

Remember, the season can be extended from October to March by using different cultivars, each with its own distinct colour and flavour. Your garden centre will provide you with the best varieties for your climatic region, so visit them before you make your final selection. However, the peaches and nectarines listed below will certainly ‘wet’ your appetite!

 

Yellow Dessert Peaches

 

Peach 'De Wet' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach 'De Wet' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach ‘De Wet’

De Wet is a medium-sized semi-clingstone peach. Its yellow skin is blushed with red and the sweet flesh is slightly coarse, with a soft melting texture. It ripens in late October making it one of the earliest yellow peaches, and because it ripens early it usually escapes most of the pests and diseases that later ripening varieties incur. However because it also blooms early, it is not suitable for regions which experience late frost.  This peach has a low chill factor and is perfect for warmer areas. It is a vigorous grower, +-4m tall and 4m wide, and such a heavy bearer that some thinning of the fruit is recommended.  

 

 

Peach 'Earligrande' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach 'Earligrande' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach ‘Earligrande’

Earligrande has large slightly oval, semi-clingstone fruit, with attractively blotched yellow and red skin. The firm flesh has a fine, melting texture and an excellent flavour. It ripens in late October making it one of the earliest yellow peaches, and because it ripens early it usually escapes most of the pests and diseases that later ripening varieties incur. However because it also blooms early, it is not suitable for regions which experience late frost.  This peach has a low chill factor and is perfect for warmer areas. It is a vigorous grower, +-4m tall and 4m wide, and such a heavy bearer that some thinning of the fruit is recommended. 

 

 

Peach 'Elberta' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach 'Elberta' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach ‘Elberta'

Elberta is an old fashioned cultivar which is still very popular worldwide. It is a large rounded, freestone peach with a yellow skin, blushed with dark red. The flesh is yellow and bright red around the pip, and the juicy flesh is coarse with a melting texture. Elberta is great to eat fresh and is also excellent for drying and canning. The fruit ripens from mid-January and because it is much slower growing than most cultivars and stays more compact, +-3m tall and 3m wide, it is ideal for smaller city gardens and great for espalier or pot culture. It bears abundantly and is best suited to areas with cold winters.

 

 

Peach 'Fairtime' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach 'Fairtime' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach ‘Fairtime’

Fairtime has large ovate shaped, freestone fruits with a point, and the yellow skin is blushed with red. The good tasting yellow flesh is bright red around the pip, and coarse yet soft, with a melting texture. The tree remains compact, +-3m tall and 3m wide, making it ideal for smaller city gardens and great for espalier or pot culture. This peach has a high chill factor and is an excellent variety for the summer rainfall regions of South Africa which experience long cold winters, and because it flowers late, it is perfect for regions which experience late spring frosts.

 

 

Peach 'Novadonna' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach 'Novadonna' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach ‘Novadonna’

Novadonna is a large round peach with no point. Although it is clingstone, it is sold as a yellow dessert peach. The skin is yellow blushed with red, and the yellow to orange coloured flesh is juicy with a good taste, and a non-melting texture. The fruit ripens from the end of November and its quality is suitable for the local market. Novadonna has medium chilling requirements making it great for areas with slightly warmer winters. It crops well, and is a strong grower with a semi-upright habit, +-4m tall and 4m wide.

 

 

Peach 'Safari' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach 'Safari' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach ‘Safari’

Safari has large round to oblong, freestone fruits with a slight point. The skin is a lovely orange-yellow, blushed with red. The yellow flesh deepens to red around the pip and has a very delicate taste with a melting, slightly coarse to soft texture. The fruit ripens from early December and it bears so heavily that some fruit thinning may be necessary. It has medium chilling requirements and does well in warmer areas, growing +-4m tall and 4m wide.

 

 

 

Yellow Clingstone Peaches

 

Peach 'San Pedro' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach 'San Pedro' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach ‘San Pedro’

San Pedro is a medium sized clingstone peach with a slightly oblong shaped fruit and a prominent point. The skin is blushed red over yellow, and the light yellow flesh has a fine melting texture, and is sweet with a slight tang. The fruit ripens in early November and is popular for export. It is best suited to regions with cold winters and is a very strong and vigorous grower, with a wide, spreading habit +- 4m tall and 4m wide, or more. It produces its fruits in abundance and is also resistant to bacterial spot.

 

 

Peach 'Transvalia' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach 'Transvalia' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach ‘Transvalia’

Transvalia has medium sized, round to oblong clingstone fruits, with blushed red over yellow skin, and a yellow to orange flesh which is sweet and juicy, with a fine, firm non-melting texture. It ripens from mid-November and is one of the best yellow dessert peaches. The tree has a semi-upright growth habit, with moderate vigour and can reach +-4m tall and 4m wide. It bears its fruit moderately but they are of excellent quality. Transvalia does well in the summer rainfall regions and has a low chill factor, making it perfect for warmer regions.

 

Peach 'Oom Sarel' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach 'Oom Sarel' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach ‘Oom Sarel’

Oom Sarel remains South Africa’s most favourite yellow clingstone peach with its large, fat and round fruits which turn golden yellow when ripe. The skin is smooth and hairy and the flesh is dark yellow and very tasty, with a fine, yet firm and non-melting texture. It is good to eat raw and excellent for cooking, baking, canning and drying. It ripens from mid-December and bears prolifically. The tree is strong and vigorous with a spreading growth habit, +-4m tall and 4m wide.

 

 

Peach 'Professor Malherbe' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach 'Professor Malherbe' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach ‘Professor Malherbe’

Professor Malherbe’ is a large, round clingstone peach which turns yellow when ripe. It is very similar to the famous ‘Oom Sarel’ but ripens later, in late November. The skin is smooth and hairy and the yellow flesh tastes good, with a fine yet firm, non-melting texture, and although it is great to eat, it is also one of the best canning, cooking, baking and drying varieties. Prof Malherbe has low chilling requirements, making it good for warmer areas, and because it blooms later it is also good for colder regions. It bears abundantly and grows vigorously to +-4m tall and 4mwide.

 

 

Peach 'Bonnigold' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach 'Bonnigold' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach ‘Bonnigold’

Bonnigold is a large round, plump yellow clingstone peach with golden yellow skin and yellow flesh. The skin is smooth and hairy and the tasty flesh is firm and non-melting It is one of the earliest clingstone peaches, ripening from mid to late November, and because it is so early, is becoming more popular for export. Bonniglod has low chilling requirements, making it suitable for areas with warmer, shorter winters.  It is a strong vigorous tree, growing +-4m tall and 4m wide, and has a semi-upright growth habit.

 

 

Peach 'Goudmyn' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach 'Goudmyn' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach ‘Goudmyn’

Goudmyn has large rounded clingstone fruits with smooth, hairy, golden yellow skin. The flesh is also golden yellow with a firm, non-melting texture and a fair taste. The fruit ripens in late November and the tree has low chilling requirements, making it perfect for areas with warmer, shorter winters. It is a strong, semi-upright grower, +-4m tall and 4m wide and produces well. It is good for eating but is mainly used for canning, cooking, preserves and jams.

 

 

Peach 'Keisie' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach 'Keisie' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach ‘Keisie’

Keisie has very large rounded clingstone peaches with smooth, hairy, golden yellow skin. The flesh is also golden yellow with a firm non-melting texture and good taste. The high quality fruit is of export quality and ripens in early January. It is excellent for eating fresh, canning, cooking, preserves and jams. Keisie has low to medium chilling requirements and is good in areas with warmer, shorter winters. It is a strong, semi-upright grower, +-4m tall and 4m wide, with good production.

 

 

Peach' Rich Lady' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach' Rich Lady' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach ‘Rich Lady’

Rich Lady is a large round clingstone peach which turns a rich, dark red when ripe, and its golden flesh has a firm crisp texture. It is a superb eating variety which is juicy with a well-balanced, sweet and melting taste. It is a heavy and regular bearer and the fruit ripens from mid-December and is suitable for export. The tree is vigorous with a spreading growth habit, +-4m tall and 4m wide.

 

 

Peach 'Sandvliet' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach 'Sandvliet' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach ‘Sandvliet’

Sandvliet is a large, rounded clingstone peach with smooth, hairy, golden yellow skin, and golden yellow flesh which is firm with a non-melting texture, and a fair taste. The tree bears abundantly and the fruit ripens from late November. Sandvliet is a good eating peach but is mainly used for canning and drying. It is strong, with a vigorous upright growth habit, +-4m tall and 4m wide. It is the second most planted commercial variety in South Africa and has low chilling requirements, making it suitable for areas with warmer and shorter winters.

 

 

Peach 'Summer Sun' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach 'Summer Sun' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach ‘Summer Sun’

Summer Sun is a large round clingstone peach with a lovely light yellow, hairy skin.  The fruit ripens from late November and has a light yellow flesh which is fine and firm, with a non-melting texture and good taste. Summer Sun is good for the summer rainfall areas of South Africa and because it has low chilling requirements is suitable for regions which experience warmer, shorter winters. The tree is very strong and vigorous with a semi-upright growth habit, +-4m tall and 4m wide.

 

 

 

White Dessert Peaches

 

Peach 'Boland' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach 'Boland' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach ‘Boland’

Boland is a large round, semi-clingstone peach with a green-white skin attractively blushed with red.  The sweet and juicy white flesh has a delicious, soft melting texture. The fruit ripens in late December, and it is such a heavy bearer, that fruit thinning is recommended. The tree is strong and vigorous, growing +-4m tall and 4m wide, and because it has low chilling requirements is suitable for areas with warmer, shorter winters.

 

 

Peach 'Culemborg' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach 'Culemborg' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach ‘Culemborg’

Culemborg is a medium sized, oval shaped, semi-clingstone peach with a green-white skin, heavily blushed with dark red. The white flesh is slightly red at the pip and tastes very sweet and juicy, with a soft, melting texture. The fruit ripens in late November and the tree bears so heavily that fruit thinning is recommended. It is strong and vigorous, growing +-4m tall and 4m wide, and because it has low chilling requirements is suited to warmer areas of the country.

 

 

Peach 'Orio' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach 'Orio' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach ‘Orion’

Orion is a small round semi-clingstone peach, with a light yellow skin flushed with red, and the white flesh is sweet with a slightly coarse to soft and melting texture. It is one of the earliest ripening white dessert peaches with the fruit ripening in early November, and the tree bears so heavily that fruit thinning is recommended. Thinning also improves fruit size. Being early ripening it usually escapes most of the pests and diseases that later ripening varieties incur. Orion is a vigorous and strong grower, +-4m tall and 4m wide, and because it has low chilling requirements, is suitable for warmer areas.

 

 

Peach 'Snow White' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach 'Snow White' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach ‘Snow White’

Snow White is a round medium sized freestone peach with a skin that turns completely red when ripe, and the creamy white flesh is very sweet and juicy. The fruit ripens from late November and is excellent for eating or making jams. It is a good bearer and a strong growing variety, +-4m tall and 4m wide, with a spreading growth habit. 

 

 

Peach 'Snow Crest' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach 'Snow Crest' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaPeach ‘Snow Crest’

Snow Crest is a medium sized to oblong shaped, freestone peach with a slight point. The skin is light green blushed with red, and the creamy coloured flesh is very sweet and firm, with a melting texture. The tree bears well and the fruit is of export quality, ripening from the end of December to early January. Snow Crest is a vigorous and strong grower, +-4m tall and 4m wide, and has low chilling requirements which make it suitable for areas with milder and shorter winters.

 

 

Nectarines

 

Nectarine 'Alpine' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaNectarine 'Alpine' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaNectarine ‘Alpine’

Alpine has round, small to medium sized clingstone fruits with smooth and glossy bright red skin, and yellow flesh with a good taste and a firm, melting texture. The fruit is of export quality and ripens from mid to late November. It is a strong grower, +-4m tall and 4m wide, with a semi-upright growth habit. Alpine has low chilling requirements and does well in warmer areas of the country.

 

 

Nectarine 'Crimson Blaze' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaNectarine 'Crimson Blaze' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaNectarine ‘Crimson Blasé’

Crimson Blasé is a round, medium to large clingstone nectarine with smooth and glossy crimson-red skin, and yellow-orange flesh with a coarse, non-melting texture. The fruit is of export quality and ripens in late November. It bears well and has a strong, semi-upright growth habit, +-4m tall and 4m wide, and because the tree has large leaves, light summer pruning in recommended for increasing yields. Crimson Blasé has medium chilling requirements making it suitable for regions with warmer winters.

 

 

Nectarine 'Fiesta Red' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaNectarine 'Fiesta Red' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaNectarine ‘Fiesta Red’

Fiesta Red has round, small to medium sized clingstone nectarines with a smooth and glossy dark red skin, and yellow to red flesh which is coarse and firm, with a melting texture and great taste. The fruit ripens in the middle of November and the tree bears so abundantly that fruit thinning is required. It is strong and vigorous, growing +-4m tall and 4m wide, with a semi-upright growth habit. Fiesta Red has low to medium chilling requirements and can be grown in cold or warmer regions. It is sensitive to bacterial diseases, especially during wet weather conditions.

 

 

Nectarines 'Flavortop' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaNectarines 'Flavortop' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaNectarine ‘Flavortop’

Flavortop has large oval to round, freestone nectarines with a smooth and glossy skin which turns dark red when fully ripe. The yellow-orange flesh is reddish near the pip and has a delicious sweet taste, and is firm with a medium fine, melting texture. The fruit ripens from early January and is excellent for eating and canning. Flavortop is a very productive and vigorous tree, but is more compact, +-3m tall and 3m wide, making it good for smaller city gardens.

 

 

Nectarine 'Mayglo' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaNectarine 'Mayglo' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaNectarine ‘Mayglo’

Mayglo has small roundish clingstone nectarines with smooth and glossy, bright red skins and light yellow flesh which is sweet and good tasting, yet with a slight tartness, and  a fine but firm, melting texture. The fruit is of export quality and ripens in early November. Because it bears heavily thinning of the fruit is required. Mayglo has strong and vigorous upright growth, +-4m tall and 4m wide and will grow in most parts of South Africa. Because it has low chilling requirements it does well in quite cold regions as well as warmer ones. However, it is not suited to areas with late spring frosts.

 

 

Nectarine 'Sunlite' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaNectarine 'Sunlite' Picture courtesy https://givingtrees.co.zaNectarine ‘Sunlight’

Sunlight has small rounded freestone nectarines with a smooth and glossy skin which is heavily blushed with dark red and yellow at the base. The yellow flesh is sweet and good tasting, yet with a slight tartness, and a medium fine, melting texture. The fruit is good for the local and export market and ripens from late November, and because it bears heavily the fruit needs to be thinned to improve size. Sunlight is a strong and vigorous tree, +-4m tall and 4m wide, with a semi-upright growth habit. It has low chilling requirements and does well in warmer regions.

 

 

Peach pips make a beautiful mulch - Image by Alicja from PixabayPeach pips make a beautiful mulch - Image by Alicja from PixabayUses:

Peach pips make a really good-looking mulch and if the healthy, pruned branches are chipped they also make a great mulch.

Divining rods were traditionally made from a Y-shaped branch of a tree, and although many dowsers today use simple L-shaped metal rods, some still prefer using branches cut from, amongst others, peach trees.

Peaches are miraculous when it comes to healthy, glowing skin with a good tone. Products containing peach extract will make your skin soft, smooth and hydrated, as they are a great source of nutrients, multivitamins and minerals. The carbohydrates found in peaches have the capacity to absorb water and contribute to preserving the hydric level of the outermost layer of the epidermis, preventing a massive loss of water and stopping skin dehydration. For this reason peach extract is recommended and widely used in the cosmetics industry, in conditioning and moisturising skin creams, bath and shower products and refreshing, astringent face tonics for sensitive skin care.

Health Benefits:

One medium peach supplies over 15% of the daily recommended dose for vitamin C and is also a good source of vitamins A and B.  A single peach contains only 37 calories, and is high in fibre, making peaches excellent for your digestion. Peaches are also hydrating, as over 85% of a fresh peach consists of water. One peach also supplies 8% of the daily recommended dose for potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure by acting as a natural diuretic to sweep excess sodium and fluid out of the body.

In addition to their anti-inflammatory properties, their antioxidant properties help to protect the body against the effects of ageing, and their beta carotene and vitamin C support a healthy skin. Beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, helps protect skin from sun damage, and warms the skin tone to create a natural glow. Vitamin C is needed to build collagen, improve skin elasticity, and fend off sagging. The juice from peaches makes a wonderful moisturizer, and it can be found in many brands of cosmetics.

The lutein and zeaxanthin in peaches help protect the retina and lens, and have been shown to reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, two common eye disorders. The vitamin A in peaches also helps support healthy vision.

The polyphenol antioxidants in peaches have been shown to inhibit the growth and spread of cancer cells, particularly breast cancer. A higher intake of berries and peaches is associated with a lower risk of oestrogen receptive-negative breast cancer among post-menopausal women.

Peaches & Panna Cotta Cream - Image by RitaE from PixabayPeaches & Panna Cotta Cream - Image by RitaE from PixabayIn the Kitchen:

Peaches and nectarines go with so many things, and although they are perfect eaten straight off the tree, if you have an abundant crop, there are many ways to use and preserve them. And if you are tired of the traditional things people do with peaches, like making cobblers, jams, jellies, and chutney, take a peek online – there’s a world of amazing peach recipes out there.

Peaches can be grilled, poached, pureed or even made into salsa or peach drinks like peach lemonade. And, if you are having guests around for dinner and want to impress without too much fuss, why not finish off your meal with some peach ice cream and “The Bellini”, a famous cocktail created in 1948 at Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy by bartender Giuseppe Cipriani. It was named after the Italian Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini. Supposedly, the drink's colour reminded Cipriani of the painter's preferred warm and subdued colour palette. In this wonderful cocktail a puree of fresh white peaches is mixed either with Prosecco sparkling wine or French Champagne. Prosecco is Italy's answer to champagne - a white sparkling wine that's available from dry to semi-sweet. Your guests are sure to come back for seconds!

Peaches and nectarines can be dried, but the easiest option for storing is to freeze them. Freezing peaches should be done while they are not too mushy and all you need to do is to clean them, remove the skin if you want to, then cut them into halves or quarters.  You can even chop them into chunks if you prefer. Take two cups of water and the juice of half a lemon and soak the peaches in it for 5 minutes before draining and allowing them to dry off a bit.  Place them on a sheet so they don’t touch and freeze them for around an hour or two.  You can then lift and place them in a container or freezer bag.

You can ripen peaches by placing them in a brown paper bag for two to three days. Sliced, fresh peaches should be tossed in lemon or lime juice to prevent browning. The stone can be removed by cutting the peach along the seam, then twisting the halves in opposite directions and pulling the halves apart.

Companion Planting:

For those who aren’t familiar with companion planting, simply put it is a  method of planting a combination of plants together which are beneficial for one another, and research has shown that intercropping (planting more than one species together) can be a valuable tool for increasing yields and crop health. Herbs are fantastic because they attract vital pollinators and their pungent aroma repels many pests.

Here are some of the most documented companion plants for peaches and nectarines:

Tansy is a herb with pretty yellow flowers in summer, and although it is poisonous if eaten, and grows so vigorously that it can become invasive if not contained, it makes an excellent companion plant for peach trees because it is very effective at repelling many pests, including fruit flies, aphids, flies, and ants. And when planted under peach trees, tansy helps to keep hungry borers and flying insects like moths away. It also infuses the soil with potassium, a nutrient vital to healthy plants. To repel flies you can even try hanging fresh tansy out to dry in the branches of your tree.

Members can read more about Tansy here...

Strawberries can be planted in the sunny patches around peach trees as a ‘bait’ plant to attract the moths that might otherwise settle into your peach tree to lay their eggs in the fruit. Bait plants are grown to protect other plants by attracting the insect pest to them, rather than to your precious fruit. Monitor the bait plant and once it is attacked, spray or cut out the pest infested pieces, or remove the entire plant and replace it.

Nasturtiums are great bait plants for aphids because they are naturally attracted to them. Nasturtiums are easy and cheap to grow from seed, and once they are infested they can easily be ripped out and new seeds popped into the soil.

Members can read more about Nasturtiums here...

Basil is another aromatic plant that will help to keep the fruit flies and aphids away from your peach trees. Its flowers will attract bees and other helpful pollinators.

Members can read more about Basil here...

Garlic can be planted around the base of the tree to help keep borers from attacking the peaches, and it also helps to prevent leaf curl. It actually accumulates sulphur which is a naturally-occurring fungicide that will help protect your plants from diseases.

Members can read more about Garlic here...

Onions have a very strong aroma which will fool many passing insects into passing by your peach trees.

Members can read more about Onions here...

Chives are also members of the onion family and do a similar job of protection by disguising the peach trees with their strong aroma. They also look pretty, especially when in full bloom.

 Members can read more about Chives here...

What not to grow with peach trees

As with people, plants do not always get along with each other, and peaches are just the same. Keep peppers and chilli peppers as far away from your peach trees as is possible because they can carry the fungus Verticillium wilt, which is potentially devastating to peach trees. .

Image by Anna Armbrust from PixabayImage by Anna Armbrust from PixabayCultivation:

Generally peaches thrive and bear abundantly in regions with long hot summers, and where the winters have a “high-chill” factor. However, although the tree is frost tolerant, the late winter and early spring blossoms are not, and a late freeze could destroy the crop. If you live in a warmer region “low-chill” varieties are now available. In humid climates the trees are more susceptible to peach leaf curl, and other fungal diseases like brown rot. As a guideline, early ripening cultivars are better for the warmer regions of the country, while later-ripening cultivars, and this includes most of the clingstone varieties, are recommended for the colder regions. For these reasons, it’s very important to find out which trees will best suit your climatic zone, and no one will know better than your local garden centre, so pay them a visit.

In June and July garden centres around South Africa sell deciduous fruit trees, either bare rooted or planted in nursery bags. Planting in winter when the trees are dormant gives them a chance to settle in and to start developing roots before they put their energy into spring growth.

Because peaches and nectarines can produce fruit for 12 years or more, it is well worth preparing the planting holes extremely well before you purchase your plants, and for peaches and nectarines, rather than digging a small very deep hole, prepare a shallower, wider hole, at least 3 to 4 times wider than the container.  The hole should also have slightly sloping sides like a saucer to allow for proper root growth. Break down the soil well and remove any big stones etc. adding generous quantities of compost or other well-rotted organic matter to the soil. Do not use fertilisers or chemicals on newly planted trees as such products can kill young trees.

Select the sunniest spot you can as peaches require full sun to produce sweet, high quality fruit. Trees will still produce fruits in areas which are sunny for most of the day, but too much shade is no good. Concerning soils, peaches are quite forgiving and tolerate most garden soils as long as they are fertile and water retentive, yet still light and well-drained. The ideal soil is slightly acidic with a pH of 6.5. Avoid planting peaches on heavy soils. Good air flow around the plants is also essential to reduce disease and insect infestations.

The first step to growing a small fruit tree is to buy small specimens with a stem that’s about as big around as your thumb. These young saplings are usually up to 1m tall, and the trick to keeping them smaller and more manageable is to cut the main stem right back when the tree is still totally dormant.

The first cut is the most important and is called a “hard heading cut”. This cut removes the growing tip, and can be done before, or immediately after planting your tree. While such a cut may seem extreme, you will need to prune off about the top two-thirds of your new tree. This pruning cut is critical because it will create a low scaffold of branches and keep the canopy of the mature tree within reach.

Here’s how to handle the first cut for deciduous, stone fruit trees. Choose a bud at knee-height, but be very careful that you leave several buds between where you want to cut and the graft. The graft is that knobby place low down on the trunk where the scion (the graft that determines fruit variety) meets the rootstock. Make a clean 45-degree cut that angles away from the bud, cutting close enough to the bud so it can heal cleanly, but not so close that you cut into the bud itself. This works well for most deciduous fruits, however, peaches and nectarines will sprout more reliably if you cut just above what is called a “nurse limb” - a small branch which is left on the stem. In spring this little branch will quickly sprout new leaves, which in turn will provide nutrients to the little sapling.

If the tree you bought has a stem thicker than 2cm it may have a harder time pushing out buds if you cut it down too low, so in this case make the first dormant hard header cut where the ‘caliper’ (width of the stem) is thumb-sized. As soon as the buds begin to develop, and after the sprouts get going, you can cut the scaffold as low as you prefer.

This hard heading cut will encourage the tree to quickly put down roots, and vigorous growth and branching will occur in spring when the plant directs its energy to the remaining buds, and they will eventually develop into new limbs, each with a growing tip of its own. The resulting open-centred tree will be shorter, stronger, easier to care for, and most fruitful.

In the first spring of growth, after the first buds start to break, take a good look at the spacing of the branches and if you do not like the arrangement of the top buds, simply prune down a bit more on the main stem until the configuration of leafing buds suits you. This place will eventually become the crotch of the tree, and the lower down the crotch is, the easier it will be to keep the tree small. And, the earlier in the season you make this cut the more vigorously new limbs will grow.

If you wish to prune to keep your tree as small as possible, read our article “So you say you don’t have space to plant fruit trees?” here.

With the first cut done, it’s time to plant. Add some soil to the hole and plant a sturdy stake into the ground before setting your tree down. Avoid planting the tree too deeply by ensuring that the “root collar” sits above the top of the hole. Look for the “root flare” at the base of the trunk and ensure it is slightly above ground level. Using some soil, secure the tree in a straight position, then fill and firmly pack the hole with the original soil, making sure there aren't any air pockets. Tie the tree securely to its stake.

Young peach trees are vulnerable to peach borer insects which bore into the main trunk, so after tying the tree securely to its stake, wrap a slit piece of plastic piping, a plastic kitchen place mat, or similar material around the stem to prevent the borers from reaching the stem.

Re-shape your hole with its sloping sides as this also acts as a basin to hold water, and mulch the ground around the base of the tree with something like bark chips to help to keep weeds down and to retain moisture. When mulching any plant it is important to keep the mulch well away from the stem.

Lastly, water your tree thoroughly, and because the tree is still dormant a light watering every 10 to 12 days thereafter should suffice.  As the weather warms up root growth will commence, so start watering a bit more. Once spring growth commences and summer arrives it is important to keep the young trees moist but not soggy. During dry weather, water generously every 7 to 10 days by watering slowly at the dripline. Avoid watering so much that you see standing water. Standing water can result in disease and rot, and is totally unsuitable for fruit trees.

Regularly check the plastic wrapping around the stem and any labels or ties which came with your tree as these can restrict the tree as it grows. Prune out any broken or dead branches during the first year of growth.

About 6 weeks after planting, fertilise young trees with a balanced fertiliser for fruit, and once again in about 6 weeks. Established peaches should be fed with a balanced fertiliser at least twice a year, once in the early spring and again in late spring or early summer. Because South African soils are low in nitrogen, an occasional high nitrogen feed will benefit the trees, and especially young trees. A balanced fertiliser for peach trees is one that has all three major nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, and for this reason, 3:1:5 remains a popular fertiliser for fruit trees in South Africa. If you live in a very cold region, to help make the tree hardier, do not fertilize it within 2 months of your first frost date or while the fruit is maturing.

Every spring, if your mulch has not yet decomposed you can remove it by raking it aside, in order to add a top-dressing of well-rotted organic matter or compost, together with a dressing of organic fertiliser for fruit trees, Spread this evenly around the tree up to the drip line of the branches, avoiding the stem, and replace or renew your mulch before watering thoroughly.

Although peaches are self-fertile and the flowers are pollinated by insects, if you are worried that not enough insects are visiting the blossoms, you can resort to hand pollination using a soft paintbrush. Pollination should not be a problem in the average garden which supplies sufficient flowers to attract pollinators.

The size and number of peaches is dependent upon a number of things. As a rule of thumb, the more peaches on a tree, the smaller the individual fruits will be. Some season’s mother-nature will produce abundant blooms; and in others unseasonal late frosts may destroy a portion of them. However, in a good year it is possible that so many peaches are on the tree, that the size of the fruit is small. Gardeners can compensate for this, by removing some of the baby peaches very early in the season. This may not be necessary for the first few seasons of growth, and you will quickly learn how to judge with experience. Remember to continually remove any peaches that are damaged by insects, leaving only good, healthy peaches to develop.

Image by Jan Steiner from PixabayImage by Jan Steiner from PixabayHarvesting:

Home grown peaches are picked when their colour has fully developed and the flesh gives slightly when squeezed. The fruit should also pull easily away from the branch. Reusable fruit protection bags are available to cover ripening fruit to protect it from birds and other insect pests, and if you are growing at home, these are well worth the expense incurred.

Winter pruning:

Peaches and nectarines bear their fruits on the branches of the previous season’s growth and to encourage better fruiting pruning is traditionally done in winter when the trees are dormant. However, there are many innovative ways of shaping fruit trees to keep them smaller, and one of them is to do your hard pruning at the summer solstice, rather than in mid-winter. A recent article we published titled: “So you say you don’t have space to plant fruit trees?” will inspire you to take a fresh new look at pruning fruit trees as well as your garden and the spaces available to you to grow your own fruit. Read this article here.

Pruning begins with the right equipment, Sharp shears make for clean, easy cuts, and if you can’t sharpen your own many hardware stores often offer the service for a small fee. As a measure of disease prevention, dip the blades of your pruning shears in a solution of isopropyl alcohol for 30 seconds to disinfect them before moving on to prune another tree.

The first three years of your trees life are the most important if you want a good shape, and pruning can even be done in summer and will not harm the tree. Pruning is done to keep the centre open with the main branches angling upward at 45 degrees. A 45 degree angle is the ideal angle for fruit bearing branches as it is the strongest. This open centre pruning method is recommended because it allows sunlight to penetrate throughout the branches. Trees which are not pruned in this way tend to grow so dense and thick that the fruit production tends to be limited to the outer perimeter of the tree.

Each one of these main branches will produce more branches which also need to be spaced as these are the branches which will bear the fruit. Start by removing all branches which are growing, vertical, horizontal, or downward, and any which may be crossing one another. Also remove any weak or diseases branches.

With all these clean-up cuts, it’s important to prune the branches back flush to the larger limb they’re growing from – don’t leave little stubs. If you have pruned any large thicker branches it is a good idea to seal them with tree seal, small branches do not require sealing. Remove any sprouts coming from the base of the trunk - technically they’re called ‘suckers’ and they originate from the rootstock rather than the fruiting variety grafted on top.

The last step is the easiest – you’re basically giving the tree a haircut. This practice is called “heading back the tree” and the idea is to prune back all the outermost growth of the tree. This shortening of the branches makes them grow thicker and more able to hold up the weight of the fruit; and Pomologists (fruit scientists) will tell you that it also causes the tree’s hormones to activate growth lower in the canopy, making for smaller, more fruitful trees.

Heading back the tree means cutting off 20 to 30 percent of last year’s growth. You can distinguish last year’s growth from two-year-old growth by the wrinkly ring of bark encircling each stem. Depending on the vigour of the tree, this may be anywhere from 5cm to 1m back from the tip of the branches. Unlike the previous steps, these cuts will be made part way into each branch, and where you make the cut is also important. Prune each branch back to a point about 1/2cm above a bud that faces in the direction you want that branch to grow in the coming year.

By keeping the tree low year after year, you’ll encourage it to send out side branches instead of tall branches that reach to the sky, making it much easier to harvest, prune and care for.

Good orchard hygiene is most important at all times and after pruning it is best to burn any diseased wood and to remove all the remaining cuttings. If you have a wood chipper, dispose of them by running them through – this makes great organic mulch for your garden. Once the area is thoroughly cleaned, using a high pressure sprayer, spray your deciduous fruit trees, and the soil around them, with 1 cup of lime sulphur to 10 cups of water.

Propagation:

Although peaches grow easily from pips, the resulting fruit may not be true to the parent plant, and it can take 3 to 5 years to actually produce fruit, so for home gardeners it is really worthwhile to purchase a grafted specimen from a trusted garden centre.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

Although it may seem from the list below that peaches and nectarines are plagued by very many ailments, and because sprays are so expensive they are hardly worth growing at all, bear in mind that you will always require a few garden sprays for vegetables and flowering plants, and because many of those available to gardeners can be used on a wide variety of plants, and most also cover a wide range of pests or diseases, if you do a bit of research you can buy only a couple of garden sprays which will basically cover everything.

Growing quality peaches in the home garden can be very rewarding, and starts with providing the proper growing conditions, and planting recommended varieties for your region. A rigid pest and disease control program also needs to be maintained throughout the year. Preventative spraying with fungicides and pesticides will help prevent problems. A well-rounded home spray program for peach trees includes dormant-season as well as growing-season sprays for pests and diseases. Research your location and learn about any pests or diseases that frequently occur on peach trees where you live. If you know peach tree diseases are common in your area, planting disease-resistant peach trees may give you an advantage.

Good sanitation practices must be used throughout the year. Remove all dead branches and mummified fruit from the trees and the ground, and keep the area around the trees free of weeds and plant debris, such as leaves and twigs. When pruning, sterilise pruning equipment thoroughly and often, especially when pruning several trees.

Every gardener should have a couple of insecticides and fungicides at home, and for deciduous fruits like peaches and nectarines there are many products available for the home gardener. The product information below is just a guide, and it is totally up to you what products you select to use. Read the instructions carefully before mixing, and especially if you wish to combine sprays. It is also vital that you follow the spraying directions to the letter as each product varies on the strength, timing and frequency of spraying required. Do some research of your own before purchasing anything, and feel free to take your list to an accredited garden centre for their advice.

To be most effective sprays must be applied at specific stages of crop development, and the terms used to describe the stages of fruit development in peaches and plums are:

Dormant: Late autumn to early spring.

Bud break: Buds begin to swell.

Bud swell: Buds are noticeably swollen, but no green tissue is present.

Pink: Just before the flower buds open.

Bloom: Flowers open.

Petal fall: Last petals are falling.

Shuck-split: Most of the developing fruits have split away from the remains of the dried flower.

Apply peach tree sprays early in the morning or evening, when bees and pollinators are less active.

Dormant Spray: Late autumn to early spring.

Traditionally, at this dormant stage, gardeners and growers alike sprayed what is called “Bordeaux mixture” - a mixture of water, copper sulphate and slaked lime - invented in the Bordeaux region of France in the late 19th century. It was sprayed on plants as a preventive treatment because its mode of action is ineffective after a fungus has become established. Bordeaux mixture was extensively used as a fungicide in vineyards, fruit-farms and gardens to prevent infestations of downy mildew, powdery mildew, potato blight, and other fungi. It is now banned in many countries, due to the copper in it, which, if it is applied in large quantities annually, and for many years, eventually becomes a pollutant.

Today chemical controls still include the use of copper sprays like copper oxychloride and copper sulphate, as well as Lime Sulphur, which are used once or twice during winter. The key difference between copper oxychloride and copper sulphate is that copper oxychloride is an organic compound of copper, which is useful as a fungicide and bactericide, whereas copper sulphate is an inorganic compound of copper, which is useful as a fungicide and herbicide. The copper is applied either after leaf drop in late autumn, after winter pruning, or in early spring at bud swell, but before bloom. The use of copper based chemicals helps to prevent or control common diseases such as bacterial canker, brown rot, coryneum blight, and peach leaf curl. Adding a 1 percent horticultural spray oil to the application mix, helps in controlling overwintering pests like aphids, scale insects, mealybugs and mites.

Another traditional deciduous winter spray is Lime Sulphur. It is both an insecticide and fungicide wrapped into one product and is used almost exclusively on deciduous plants like roses and deciduous fruit trees for the treatment of overwintering pests and diseases. If sprayed lightly over the soil and mulch around the trees after pruning it will also sterilise the soil against any pests below root level and potential fungal infections. Although Lime Sulphur is only used once a year on totally dormant plants, it cannot be stored for longer than six months and should be bought fresh every year, so share a bottle with a friend.

The practice of disinfecting pruning equipment and sealing large pruning wounds with a tree seal also helps to prevent diseases like bacterial canker.

In South Africa today it is hard to find a broad spectrum fungicide for general garden use, and one which is safe to use on ornamentals, vegetables and fruits in the home garden. It has also become very confusing and difficult to decide what to purchase. For example, organic farmers are not allowed to use the synthetic copper-containing fungicide Mancozeb contained in Dithane, which is used to treat potato blight and many other fungal diseases on a wide variety of plants and crops, but these organic farmers may use the inorganic compound copper sulphate. When selecting your fungicides, bear in mind that although Mancozeb has low toxicity for earthworms, birds and mammals, copper sulphate is toxic to all three.

Dithane is extensively used by gardeners to control many fungal diseases on a wide range of field crops, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and ornamentals. It is used by gardeners against blight, and is used as a preventative spray in much the same way as Bordeaux mixture, protecting the leaves from blight infection, rather than killing it. The mixture also has a very low acute toxicity to mammals.

A good organic product is Biogrow Copper Soap with the active ingredient Copper Octanoate. This product is a patented, fixed copper fungicide, made by combining a soluble copper fertiliser with a naturally occurring fatty acid.  The copper and the fatty acid combine to form a copper salt of the fatty acid, known technically as soap. The copper soap fungicide controls many common diseases using low concentrations of copper, down as low as 90 ppm.  The net result is an excellent vegetable, fruit and ornamental fungicide.  It decomposes to form soluble copper, and fatty acid, both of which can be used by microbes and plants.

This product controls diseases of a wide range of plants, including many vegetables, fruits and ornamentals.  As with most fungicides it acts to protect plants from infection.  Therefore, it is important to have the copper soap on the leaf, flower or fruit before the pathogen is able to cause an infection.  This product will control fungal diseases such as: powdery mildew and downy mildew on vegetables and ornamentals, rust on ornamentals, late blight on potatoes and tomatoes, and downy mildew on grapes.

During dormancy peach trees can be sprayed with Biogrow: Vegol and Pyrol for the control of scale insects and the overwintering mealy bug.

Biogrow: Vegol is 96% Canola Oil and is a contact insecticide with ovicidal activity that can be used in both the dormant and growing seasons. It is a proprietary formulation consisting of pure canola as active ingredient that kills all stages of insects. The active ingredient does not persist in the environment. This product will control insect pests such as aphids, mealy bugs, mites, leafhoppers, scale, whitefly, adelgids, immature plant bugs, sawfly larvae, psyllids, leaf beetle larvae and phylloxera.

For use indoors, outdoors and in greenhouses, on fruit and nut trees (e.g., apples, cherries, peaches, pears, nuts); flowering, foliage and bedding plants; corn; soybean; melons; tomatoes; vegetables (e.g., beans, cabbage, cucurbits, peas, potatoes); figs; small fruits (e.g., grapes, strawberry, raspberry); citrus; ornamental and shade trees (e.g., birch, evergreens, holly, oak); and houseplants.

Biogrow: Pyrol contains Pyrethrins 0.5%, and Canola Oil 89.5%. This product provides broad-spectrum control. It can be used as a dormant and growing season insect spray and kills all stages of insects, including eggs, on contact. It is a proprietary formulation consisting only of naturally occurring plant oils as active ingredients. It is truly an insecticide from plants for plants. It does not contain piperonyl butoxide as a synergist, and the active ingredients do not persist in the environment.

Pyrol gives broad-spectrum control of most insect pests such as : aphids, beetles (e.g., Colorado potato beetle. flea beetle, Japanese beetle, asparagus beetle), caterpillars (e.g., gypsy moth caterpillars, tent caterpillar, diamondback moth larvae, leaf rollers), ants, mealy bugs, mites, leafhoppers, scale, whitefly, adelgids, plant bugs, fungus gnats, thrips, sawfly larvae, psyllids, spittlebugs, and phylloxera.

For great advice, visit the Biogrow website here

Bud-break Spray: Buds begin to swell.

Fruit flies emerge in early summer, so you need to start spraying, putting out fruit fly bait stations, or both, every two weeks throughout spring; at bud break, pink, and at petal fall. This is especially important if the weather remains warm and sunny.

Gardeners can monitor fruit fly by using fruit fly traps, and commercial pheromone traps are available at cooperatives. Pheromones are chemical compounds that are produced and secreted and that influence the behaviour and development of other members of the same species. Chemical control pesticides registered specifically for baiting stations are available at garden centres.

An environmentally friendly product by Efekto: Eco Fruit Fly Bait GF-120 is excellent for baiting stations. It consists of a plant protein and sugar formulation with Spinosad as the active ingredient. Spinosad is derived from a soil organism, making GF-120 one of the safest pesticide products available.

Various sprays are also available for fruit fly like Biogrow: Bioneem. It active ingredient is Azadirachtin from neem seeds and it is used to control a wide range of insects (up to 200 insect types) including white flies, leafminers, mealybug, thrips, fruit flies, leaf hopper, red spider mite, weevils and many more. It is relatively harmless to insects that pollinate crops and trees, such as butterflies, spiders and bees; ladybugs that consume aphids; and wasps that act as a parasite on various crop pests. This is because neem products must be ingested to be effective. Thus, insects that feed on plant tissue succumb, while those that feed on nectar or other insects rarely contact significant concentrations of neem products.

You may even like to make your own fruit fly baiting station and there are many recipes online, but a very simple trap can be made by pouring apple cider vinegar in a bowl and covering it with cling film. Pierce several small holes through the cling film to allow the smell to escape and the fruit flies to enter. Fruit flies don’t seem to be able to resist the aroma of the cider vinegar and then they get trapped in the bowl and can’t find their way out. Change the vinegar regularly to keep its efficacy and watch the fruit flies flock to it.

)Read more about fruit fly below under insects)

Pink Stage: Just before the flower buds open Image by Beverly Buckley from PixabayPink Stage: Just before the flower buds open Image by Beverly Buckley from PixabayPink: Just before the flower buds open.

Spray your trees with a fungicide when the buds are in tight clusters and their pink colour is barely visible. You can also apply an insecticidal spray at this time to control pests like aphids. If caterpillars or peach twig borers are a problem, spray with an applicable insecticide. Continue to spray for fruit fly and check your fruit fly bait stations regularly.

Bloom: Flowers open.

Check your fruit fly bait stations regularly, and when the flowers are in full bloom, if you have to spray, do so very early in the morning or late afternoon when beneficial pollinators like bees are less active. It you have problems with brown rot you will have to spray during full bloom, with subsequent sprays at 10 to 14 day intervals until harvest.  Read more about brown rot under diseases below.

Petal fall: Last petals are falling.

After most of the flower petals have dropped spray once again with a fungicide. During this period look out for caterpillars, continue spraying for fruit fly and check your fruit fly bait stations regularly. Spray for other insects if necessary.

At this stage, look out for the nocturnal false coddling moth, one of approximately six different moths which all occur relatively commonly in fruit orchards, and which all look very similar to the casual observer. The wings are patterned with greys, light browns, creams, blacks and orange browns, and they have a wing span of 1.5cm to 2cm.  After mating the female moths lay their eggs on the surface of the fruit, and when they hatch the new larvae bore into the fruit to feed on the soft pulp.

False coddling moth can be controlled with good orchard sanitation, and timing of control actions using pheromone traps is widely employed, as are light traps. Pheremone traps for various garden insects are now available from Living Seeds online. Read more here. https://livingseeds.co.za/false-codling-moth

Preventative sprays are best to control this pest and must be applied for the first time, after 80% of blossom fall, and every 14 days thereafter. Use a concentrated contact and stomach insecticide, following the instructions on the pack. Boigrow: Bioneem, is a good product which can be combined with others in their range, which, if sprayed regularly will strengthen, feed, and protect your trees.

(Read more about coddling moth in the insect section below)

Shuck-split: Most of the developing fruits have split away from the remains of the dried flower.

Continue spraying for fruit flies and coddling moths, and check all your bait stations regularly. Spray for other pests and diseases as required, as this will depend on the weather conditions, some of which will favour certain insects or diseases over others, so keep a look out and take action if required. Continue practicing good orchard hygiene and remove debris and weeds regularly as these can harbour many ‘nasties’.

Summer:

Spraying and baiting for fruit fly and coddling moth must continue right through summer. Check your traps regularly as the fruit ripens. Check your trees often in summer and spray for pests and diseases as required. Stop spraying about two weeks before harvesting, or according to the instructions on the insecticides or fungicides you are using.

Autumn:

Continue spraying for fruit flies and coddling moth well into autumn and only reduce the number of your bait stations when less than two flies or moths are caught in a trap within two weeks.  Fungicide applied in autumn and winter prevents peach leaf curl, bacterial canker, and shot hole. Adding a 1 percent horticultural spray oil to the application mix, helps in controlling overwintering pests like aphids, scale insects, mealybugs and mites.

 

Some insect pests of peaches and nectarines

 

Mediterranean fruit fly

Click here to see images of Mediterranean fruit fly

Mediterranean fruit flies must be the worst pest of stone fruits in South Africa and everywhere else they are cultivated, and infestations in commercial fruit orchards can lead to significant losses. The rules for exporting fruits to some countries are also so strict that exports can be suspended if the authorities find a single fruit fly in a container of fruit. On top of this, more and more consumers are demanding non-chemical (biological) pest control methods, so producers are changing their approach to pest control, and this includes implementing the internationally accepted ‘sterile insect technique’ (SIT). The SIT for Mediterranean fruit flies involves the mass-rearing of fruit flies, sterilising the males using gamma radiation, and then releasing these sterile males into orchards and infested areas. The eggs laid after mating are then infertile. The continual release of sterile insects ultimately results in the insect population dropping to very low levels, or even being eradicated.

However, the greatest source of fruit fly populations is year-round infestation in private gardens, neglected orchards and vineyards, and because the SIT programme depends on being able to maintain a ratio of sterile males to wild males in the land of at least 80:1 in order to minimise the chance of a wild male mating with a wild female, SIT is not a standalone technique, and to be successful it has to be integrated with ‘attract and kill’ traps in both orchards and home gardens, combined with stringent hygiene practices.  Pheremone and sticky liner traps for various garden insects are now available from Living Seeds online. Read more here. https://livingseeds.co.za/false-codling-moth Efekto: Cypermethrin is a concentrated contact and stomach insecticide for use on crops like peaches, plums, apples, pears, etc. and is used to control fruit flies and codling moths.

The pupae of Mediterranean fruit fly hibernate over winter in the shallow soil layers. They are brown, fairly hard, barrel-shaped, and approximately 3 to 4mm in length. In early summer they emerge, and the adult female who is approximately 8mm long with shiny, blue eyes, a yellow or light-brown coloured body, and wings spotted with brown bands extending to their tips, lays her eggs underneath the skin of ripening fruit and within 2 to 4 days the translucent larvae start feeding, turning to a creamy-white as they mature to about 10mm in length.

Mediterranean fruit fly is controlled by immediately removing all infected fruits and destroying them. Rotted or unwanted fruit can be put into a plastic bag that must be tightly closed and exposed to the sun for at least 3 days to 7 days if the temperatures are below 30°C. After being exposed to the sun, the organic waste can be thrown away or used as compost or animal feed.  Another method is to dig a pit well away from the trees in which to dispose of the fruit. The fruit must then be covered with at least 50cm of soil.

False codling moth

Click here to see images of codling moth

False codling moth (Thaumatotibia leucotreta) is a native pest to South Africa, affecting many important South African export crops, including citrus, deciduous stone fruits like peaches, plums etc. as well as avocadoes, pomegranates, persimmons, macadamias, grapes, litchi and hot peppers. 

False coddling moth is one of approximately six different moths which all occur relatively commonly in fruit orchards, and which all look very similar to the casual observer. The wings are patterned with greys, light browns, creams, blacks and orange browns, and have a wing span of 1.5cm to 2cm. Adults seldom venture far from their birth site, perhaps ranging no more than 100m or so, and are nocturnal. Females attract males by releasing sex pheromones (chemicals that trigger a mating response in the males) into the air. After mating the female moths lay their eggs on the surface of the fruit, and when they hatch the new larvae bore into the fruit, leaving a discolouration. Once inside, they feed on the soft pulp, which creates mushiness in the fruit. In addition to this internal damage, the holes on the surface caused by the caterpillar expose the fruit to disease and mould.

All five larval instars develop within the fruit, and once the final instar larva is ready to pupate two to eight weeks later, the caterpillar drops to the ground on a silken thread. It is pinkish and 1.5cm to 2cm long. It spins a cocoon in the soil and remains here for up to six weeks, depending on temperatures, before metamorphosing into an adult. The length of the life cycle and the damage caused differs from fruit type to fruit type in South Africa, and also from region to region. False codling moth attacks fruit at all stages of its development, and if this occurs early on, the fruit may ripen prematurely and drop.

The larvae are laid inside the blossoms and the new fruit forms around it, and often the fruit will still look edible and only after peeling or breaking into it, will you find the larvae inside! If the fruits are green, the penetration holes will turn yellow, and eventually appear brown and sunken as the fruit tissue gets more deteriorated. The maturing larvae will increase the size of the penetration holes so that they can turn into moths and still live within the fruits; and within four weeks the distressed fruits will fall and the moths will emerge.

False coddling moth can be controlled with good orchard sanitation, and timing of control actions using pheromone traps is widely employed, as are light traps. Pheremone traps for various garden insects are now available from Living Seeds online. Read more here.

Preventative sprays are best to control this pest and must be applied for the first time, after 80% of blossom fall, and every 14 days thereafter. Use a concentrated contact and stomach insecticide, following the instructions on the pack. Boigrow: Bioneem, as described above, is a good product which can be combined with others in their range, which, if sprayed regularly will strengthen, feed, and protect your trees. Efekto: Cypermethrin is a concentrated contact and stomach insecticide for use on crops like peaches, plums, apples, pears, etc. and is used to control fruit flies and codling moths. False coddling moths are known to become resistant to control sprays, so if you have a serious problem alternate sprays and use pheromone traps. Bags, or even nylons, slipped over developing fruit can prevent larvae from accessing and eating them. You may also put a cardboard shield around the trunk of the tree to keep larvae from climbing up to the fruit.

Some growers flood their orchards in winter to kill the pupae, and many gardeners gently turn over the topsoil to expose the pupae to birds, and what the birds don’t find, hopefully the frost will kill off.

Oriental fruit moth

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The Oriental fruit moth (Grapholita molesta) infests late-maturing peach varieties as well as apples and pears. The larva feeds in growing shoots in the spring, and later generations feed inside the fruit. Fruit infestations typically occur once the peaches begin to colour, and because the larvae often enter the peach through the stem, there is no external evidence of damage. Full-grown larvae are pinkish, have a brown head, and are about 12mm long. To reduce infestations, apply insecticides at shuck-split, and reapply 2 weeks later.

Banded fruit weevil

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Banded fruit weevils are also called snout beetles or V-backed snout beetles. They have elongated heads with protruding, often curved snouts, which bear the mouthparts and antennae. Adult weevils are hard-bodied, grey-brown, approximately 7mm in length, and are incapable of flight as they do not have wings. They have a hard, bulging, sphere-shaped abdomen with a characteristic V-shaped line across the rear of the abdomen.

The soft-bodied larvae on the other hand, grow to a length of 6mm, are arc-shaped and legless, have a creamy white colour with brown heads, and live in the soil. The adult weevils feed on foliage, flowers, buds and fruit. They feed at night, are inactive during the day, and often escape from potential predators by pretending to be dead. The female lays her eggs in loose organic matter on the soil. These eggs hatch in 10 to 14 days and the larvae immediately burrow into the soil, where they feed on plant roots.

The larvae develop throughout the winter and pupate during the spring. Adult weevils emerge from the soil from mid to late October. The highest numbers of weevils are usually found during November and December and sometimes also from January till as late as March.

These pests can be controlled either biologically, physically, chemically or by cultural practices. Birds are predators of these pests, but chickens and guinea fowl can also be employed to reduce the weevil numbers in orchards.  Weevil numbers can be reduced by removing weeds, as the larvae feed on the roots of the weeds and the adult weevils also use the weeds as a means of climbing onto the trunk of the trees. Sticky bands can be placed around the trunks of the trees to prevent the adult weevils from reaching the canopy. Pesticides registered specifically for the banded fruit weevil can be sprayed onto the leaves as soon as damage is noticed.

Scale (red scale and pernicious scale)

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The word ‘scale’ refers to the thick or scaly cover which protects these insects from predators. Scale insects are 2 to 3mm in length, and there are two kinds of scale insects which occur on peach trees, the pernicious and red scale. Pernicious scale is an armoured scale, in other words they have a hard, protective covering. These scales are relatively circular and slightly conical. The colour varies from greyish-black to grey with a distinct yellowish centre. The insect feeds on the branches, shoots, leaves and even fruit by sucking the sap from the plant tissue. The branches of the tree could start dying back if the tree is infested heavily. Red scale is similar in size to the pernicious scale. The protective covering (scale) appears brownish red but is actually transparent. The colour can be ascribed to the colour of the insect’s body underneath the scale.

Ants are usually closely associated with the scale insects because scale insects produce large quantities of honeydew, which serves as a food source for ants. The ants, in return, protect the scale insects from predators.

Scale can be controlled biologically, chemically or by cultural practices. If the ants are controlled, ladybirds, lacewings, praying mantis and even birds will assist in controlling the scale. Branches that are heavily infested should be pruned away and destroyed. Light mineral oils applied during the dormant phase of the tree work wonders, and at least 2 to 3 applications should be made before the trees start to blossom.  

American bollworm

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Bollworm insects are prominent on all deciduous fruit crops. The young larvae are hairy, have a dark-beige colour, but tend to become lighter as they mature, and can vary from green to brown or reddish-pink with a distinct pale abdominal side. They are approximately 30mm long and have a characteristic yellow stripe on both sides of their bodies.

The colour of both the adult male and female bollworm moths can vary from a dull yellow to light or dark brown. However, the males have an olive-green tinge. The rear wings of both the male and female moths are paler in colour with a typical large dark-brown to black spot. Adult moths are 15 to 20mm long. The larvae feed on flowers, young shoots and newly set fruit. The damaged fruit will form corky tissue to protect the wound. These scars in turn affect fruit development, resulting in malformed fruit.

Bats and other nocturnal feeders can control the moths. Other garden birds, which feed on the larvae, should be encouraged to nest in the trees. Spiders and lacewings are also useful predators of the larvae. Monitor the leaves for the occurrence of moth eggs and larvae as well as for damage to leaves and fruit caused by the larvae. Remove the eggs and larvae and destroy them. Pesticides registered specifically for these insects can be applied. It is of the utmost importance to follow the application instructions as supplied by the manufacturer of the pesticide.

Thrips

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Thrips are tiny insects, 1 to 2mm in length, slender, varying in colour from yellow to black and are barely visible to the naked eye. The adults have long, slender, membraneous wings fringed with fine hairs. Thrips have piercing mouthparts with which they pierce the cells of the plants and feed on the plant juices. The plant cells will consequently collapse, resulting in deformed flowers, leaves, stems, shoots and fruit. The adults also lay eggs one by one beneath the skin of young fruit. The hatched young thrips leave the fruit, but the scar tissue as a result of the larvae remains, developing into round holes as the fruit swells. 

Lacewings, ladybirds, praying mantis, chameleons and even birds will assist in controlling these insects. Weeds provide a habitat for these insects as they feed and reproduce in weeds, especially in the absence of crops. It is therefore necessary to weed regularly. Pesticides registered specifically for these insects should be applied when the first signs of damage are noticed.

Shot hole borer

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The polyphagous shot hole borer (PSHB), an ambrosia beetle (Coleoptera: Curculeonidae: Scolytinae) is native to Asia. Polyphagous refers to the ability of the beetle to infest many different tree species.  Ambrosia beetles are only about 2mm long and members of the weevil subfamilies Scolytinae and Platypodinae, which live in nutritional symbiosis with many fungi, and especially Fusarium euwallaceae. The beetles excavate tunnels in dead or stressed trees as well as healthy ones in which to cultivate their fungal gardens, which are their sole source of nutrition, and where eggs are laid and larvae develop into mature adults, thus completing its life cycle. Actually, it isn’t the beetle itself that kills the tree; but rather the fungus Fusarium Euwallacea.

This beetle, together with its fungal symbiont Fusarium euwallaceae, has emerged as an important invasive pest in South Africa. Since its discovery in KwaZulu-Natal in 2017, research has confirmed the presence of the PSHB in eight of the nine provinces in South Africa, and as of March 2019, the only exception being Limpopo. Avocado trees are among the most susceptible, but PSHB could also badly affect macadamia and pecan nut trees, deciduous stone fruits, and grapes. Many exotic trees are affected like the London Plane, English Oak, Chinese Maple, Japanese Maple, Boxelder, and Sweetgum. Indigenous species like the Coral Tree, Keurboom and Cape willow are particularly susceptible, and often killed.

Unfortunately, detection of the PSHB is difficult because the beetles are so tiny. However, what you can do is identify the infected trees. The symptoms of infected trees vary from one tree species to another and there are many signs that show when a tree is infected. Some of these signs are: Wilting trees, dead branches, entry and exit holes on the bark of the trees, shotgun-like lesions on the bark at the entry/exit holes, sugar volcanoes on the bark at entry/exit holes, blotches of oozing resin on the bark at entry/exit holes, and wood frass (wooden powder) on the bark at entry/exit holes. ·      

If your peaches and nectarines are cared for correctly and inspected often for pests and diseases, which are dealt with immediately, they should be fine. At present no chemical product is registered to use on PSHB in South Africa, and there are still many unanswered questions about this pest which need to be understood in order to reduce its impact. However, some management strategies can reduce its impact. Good hygiene and vigilance remains the best friend of deciduous, stone fruit growers.

Luckily PSHB usually infests the stem first before moving on to the main trunk, so if spotted early the infested branches can be cut out completely. However, if a tree is a heavily infested reproductive host, cut it down completely. To prevent the spread, you can burn the infected branches, but beware, because some beetles will fly away when the wood becomes hot or when smoke appears, so do not burn in un-infested areas. One of the best ways to dispose of branches is to chip them finely to about 2cm and to add the chips to the compost heap. You can also solarize the chopped branches by sealing them in clear plastic sheets and leaving them out in the full sun. Keep them there for at least one month in summer, or several months during winter.

 

Common diseases affecting peaches and nectarines

Bacterial canker

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This disease is caused by bacteria called Pseudomonas syringae pv. Syringae. The symptoms are characterised by cankers, secreted gum and dieback. The bark and branches of the trees are usually attacked during the winter and result in cankers. The infected parts of the tree or cankers will have a brown colour, and gum will be secreted from these parts during the late spring and summer. The leaves and fruit form sporadically but could pose a problem during long cold and wet weather conditions, during or shortly after bloom. Small brown spots with yellow edges will be visible on the leaves.

Bacterial canker infections usually occur during autumn and winter, and the bacteria can survive during the winter in the tissue of the bark at canker margins, in seemingly healthy buds, and by spreading through the vascular system of the tree. The bacteria will grow and multiply within these areas during winter and will be distributed by rain to the blossoms and young leaves during spring. The bacteria can also survive during summer by growing as an epiphyte on the surfaces of leaves without any apparent symptoms, and on other plants or weeds in the orchard. (An epiphyte is a plant that grows on top of, or is supported by another plant, but does not depend on it for nutrition.)

The most important control measure is to minimise stress on young or recently planted trees. Sufficient irrigation should be applied to prevent drought stress. Optimum nutrient levels should be maintained. Other pests and diseases, which could weaken the tree, must be controlled, and weeds should be removed regularly. Dead or dying branches should be removed and severely affected trees should be completely removed. It is unlikely that the disease will spread if pruning is done during dry weather conditions in mid-summer. However, it would be advisable to disinfect the pruning tools after pruning as this will prevent the disease from being spread from one tree to another. Pruning should not be done during the early spring and autumn as the bacteria are the most active during these periods. Partial healing of the cankers is possible as the tree has the ability to contain these with callus tissue. 

Bacterial spot 

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This disease is caused by bacteria called Xanthomonas campestrispv.pruni and is visible on the leaves and fruit as well as the shoots. The first signs of infection can usually be observed as small, water-soaked, greyish areas on the undersides of leaves. As the disease develops, these spots turn to angular, purple, black, or brown lesions. Spots remain angular and are most prominent towards the tip and along the midribs of leaves. The infected areas may fall out, giving the infected leaves a pronounced tattered, keyhole appearance. Infected leaves will eventually turn yellow and drop.

The bacteria survive the winter by inhabiting small branches, buds and plant tissue without apparent symptoms. The bacteria are spread to leaves, shoots and fruit by the first spring rains. Spring infections can occur at any time after the leaves have started to unfold. Severe outbreaks of this disease will be favoured by a moderate season with light, frequent rains and accompanying heavy winds. Oozing summer cankers can also be a source for secondary infection and spreading of the bacteria. The systemic movement of the bacteria from leaves and shoots will contribute to the formation of cankers.

Major outbreaks of bacterial canker can often be attributed to poor cultural practices, and is usually more severe on poorly nourished trees or where nematodes are a problem, so proper cultural care is important. This disease cannot be controlled chemically, so the best option would be to obtain disease-free plant material from a nursery. 

Brown rot

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This disease is caused by a fungus called Monilinia fructicola which attacks the blossoms, spurs and shoots, as well as the fruit. The infected blossoms will wilt and turn brown, and small, round, light brown spots will appear on the fruit. The affected tissue will remain firm but will be covered with a leathery skin. The rotted fruit can either fall from the tree to the ground or it could remain on the tree as dry and shrivelled fruit called fruit “mummies”. 

This fungus survives in orchards from one growing season to the next as mycelium on mummies, fruit stems, blighted blossoms, and twigs and cankers. Mycelium is a loose network of the delicate thread-like strands called hyphae, which form the body of a fungus. However, the conidia (spores of the fungus) residing on the mummies and cankers on stone fruit trees are believed to be the primary sources of infection. Conidia are distributed by wind and rain and germinate rapidly under favourable conditions. The number of spores distributed, the subsequent incubation period and the severity of the infection will also depend on the temperature and the duration of the humid period. During periods when high humidity and optimum temperature conditions are experienced, fruit infections can occur rapidly within a short time, as soon as 3 hours, if the inoculum levels are high. The incubation period will be shorter if the periods during which high humidity prevails are longer. The symptoms will also develop more rapidly.

Trees should be monitored during and after pruning for the presence of fruit mummies and cankers. It is of the utmost importance to remove and burn the mummies in order to prevent further spreading of the disease. Fruit susceptibility to brown rot increases rapidly as soon as the fruit starts to change colour. Trees should be monitored approximately every 3 to 5 days during the pre-harvest period. Insect, bird and hail damage to ripening fruit can result in damaged areas, which can rapidly be colonised by the fungus. 

High levels of orchard sanitation should be maintained in order to prevent the accumulation of spores on the fruit. Spray during full bloom and two subsequent sprays at 10 to 14 day intervals to prevent infections of flowers and young fruit. Fungicides are also required when fruit ripens. It is important to begin spraying in 7 day intervals (typically, three times until harvest) when fruit turns colour from green to yellow and red. Spray with Copper Oxychloride plus mineral oil at bud swell, especially if the weather is humid or showery.  Repeat if necessary.  Alternatively, you can spray with Kirchoffs Rot 'n Spot when the fruit starts to swell, followed by another spray about ten days before you harvest.

Blossom blight

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This disease is caused by a fungus called Monilinia laxa. The fungus causes the blossoms to wilt and dry out but the blossoms do not fall from the tree. The infected blossoms are very similar to blossoms that have not been pollinated. These blossoms will appear stiff and stuck to the stalk when tipped with a finger, while the un-pollinated blossoms will be pliable and will fall off easily. Small, grey raised areas usually occur on the stalks of the flowers. 

The disease cycle is similar to that of brown rot disease, and the controls are also similar to that of brown rot.

Crown gall

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A bacterium called Agrobacterium tumifaciens is responsible for this disease, which is characterised by wart-like tumours or galls on the roots and crowns. Young galls are light in colour and have a cheesy texture. Older galls are dark and hard and can range from 10 to 100mm in size. The numerous galls on the roots may disrupt the uptake of water and nutrients. The trees will therefore show reduced growth and possible nutrient deficiencies.

The bacteria are distributed in many soils and can survive for several years in the soils. The tree must have a damaged area for these bacteria to enter the plant. However, the bacteria do not play any further part in the development and growth of the gall, once the gall has been initiated.

The best method of prevention would be to obtain disease-free material from a reputable nursery. 

Powdery mildew

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This disease is caused by a fungus called Podosphaera oxyacanthae. It is primarily a problem on green peach fruit, but can also occur on leaves and young shoots, causing white, powdery areas to form on new leaves, which can eventually cover the entire leaf surface. Fungal growth is primarily on the underside of the leaf with yellow spots are visible on the upper surface. The mycelium of this fungus survives the winter on the tissue of the buds or diseased leaves. As soon as spring commences, the fungus will grow on the surface of the leaf and will send fine threads into the cells of the leaf. These extract nutrients from the cells without killing them. New spores are formed after only a few days. These new spores are then transported by the wind to other leaves. Young fruits develop white, circular spots that may enlarge. Infected areas on fruit turn brown and appear rusty.

Provide good air circulation to peach trees by following proper pruning practices. This disease occurs frequently when roses are nearby. The best method of control is to gather and destroy the fallen leaves and fruit. A registered fungicide can be applied as soon as fungal growth is observed.

Peach Leaf Curl

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The peach leaf curl fungus, Taphrina deformans can infect peach leaves, flowers, and fruit. Infected leaves pucker, thicken, curl, and often turn red. Infected leaves eventually turn yellow and drop from the tree. Severe leaf drop can weaken the plant and reduce fruit quality. Fruit symptoms of raised, wrinkled areas, are often overlooked.

Control is impossible after the symptoms are visible. Fungicides applied before bud break give good control, and usually one dormant application is sufficient. This spray application must be at least a week following a dormant horticultural oil spray for scale and mite control. If the disease has been severe enough in the past to warrant chemical control, choose a copper fungicide.

Gummosis

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This disease can kill branches or trees and is caused by the fungus Botryosphaeria dothidea. Earliest symptoms appear on the young bark of vigorous trees as small blisters, usually occurring at lenticels. Infection occurs late in the season, and may be apparent in autumn or the following spring. Some infected areas exude a gummy resin. Trees that are two or three years old often have sunken diseased areas (cankers) apparent on the trunk and major branches. Large amounts of gummy exudate, or gum balls, are associated with lesions at multiple sites. After repeated infections, the bark becomes rough and scaly.

There is no practical chemical control available for gardeners, so keep the trees healthy, since the most severely infected trees are water-stressed. Dead wood should be removed during winter pruning, and destroyed. When pruning during the summer months, remove and destroy all pruned wood.

Caution:

A peach pit contains hydrocyanic acid, which is a poisonous substance.

The information contained within this website is for educational purposes only, documenting the traditional uses of specific plants as recorded through history. Always seek advice from a medical practitioner before starting a home treatment programme.