Name: nectarine, Prunus persica var. nucipersica.
Height: small to medium tree approximately 4m tall and wide; grafted dwarf forms 1.5m x 1.5m.
Plant type: deciduous tree.
Climate: mostly temperate regions as the tree needs to be exposed to cold temperatures for a certain amount of time (“chill hours”) to develop fruit. It’s possible to grow in warmer climates, just look for low-chill nectarine varieties.
Soil: well-drained, enriched with plenty of organic matter.
Position: full sun, with protection from strong winds.
Flowering and fruiting: masses of rosy pink flowers appear from early spring. Fruits are small and round with smooth skin. The skin is red with yellow-orange highlights and the flesh is white, yellow or pink. Harvest from November.
Feeding: feed with a complete fertiliser balanced for fruiting trees in spring.
Watering: water regularly until well established.
A small to medium fruit tree with dense, rounded canopy. Similar to the peach tree, its long, glossy green leaves are an attractive feature for most of the year but turn yellow and drop in autumn. Dense clusters of rosy-pink flowers are produced in spring, and eventually fall to give way to the red-yellow rounded fruit. The fruit smells sweet, and the flesh has a tasty balance of sweet and tang.
Nectarines are handsome trees that double as great shade trees. Enjoy the fresh fruit from the tree or add to salads or onto the grill. The firm flesh means it doesn’t become too soft and mushy, unlike peaches.
The best time to plant your nectarine tree is in winter, when trees are available as bare-rooted stock in stores. Bare-rooted trees look like sticks with roots, but planting them now means they will have plenty of time to establish before putting on new growth in spring. Soak the roots in a bucket of diluted seaweed solution while you prepare the planting site.
Choose a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Add plenty of organic matter and work it well into the soil. Dig a hole twice as wide and to the same depth as the existing root ball. Create a small mound of soil in the centre of the planting hole. Place the young tree in the hole and spread its roots evenly over the mound. Backfill with soil, making sure the tree is sitting at the same level it was in the bag or that the bud union near the base of the trunk is above the soil level. Firm the soil and water well.
Mulch around the base of the tree with pine bark or sugar cane, shaping it into a ring so it can better direct water to the root zone.
Prune back one-third of all the branches. Making a drastic cut now will improve the overall health and vigour of the tree.
Like peaches, nectarines are fast growers, fruiting in as little as three or four years after planting. They’re hardy and don’t require too much attention once established. There are many different cultivars available, all with slightly different flavours and maturing times, so you could plant a mini orchard to experience their wonderful variety. Alternatively, there are multi-grafted trees that have two or more cultivars – perfect for small spaces.
Fruit is best harvested when ripe. Pick when the colour changes to the vibrant red-orange-yellow tones, and when the fruit is firm. Birds love them too, so net with bird netting to keep them out.
When young, feed with an organic-based fertiliser suitable for fruiting trees in spring and autumn. Once they start producing fruit, fertilise in winter, spring and summer. Always water in well after application.
Water regularly to keep the soil moist but reduce watering in autumn and winter. Top up the mulch as needed to help retain soil moisture.
In winter, remove branches to help open the canopy, creating a V- or an open vase shape. These main branches or ‘leaders’ form the framework and can be cut back each winter to encourage branching. Once established, prune to maintain the open shape, removing dead and diseased wood and any inward-growing branches. Prune back as needed to keep it to a manageable size.
Thin excess fruit in late spring – look for clusters growing too close together and gently twist to remove.
Nectarine trees can be subject to fungal diseases and brown rot. Protect trees from peach leaf curl by spraying trees in late winter with a copper-based fungicide. You will need to time the spray so that it is applied at budswell, i.e., as buds are swelling but before they have opened. If leaf curl has been a problem in the past, treat in autumn at leaf fall, at budswell and again after buds have opened.
You can grow a nectarine from seed, but it is unlikely to produce any fruit. For a fruiting tree, it’s best to buy a known cultivar.
After applying fertiliser, delay harvesting for a few days and rinse fruit well before cooking and eating. If using products to deal with pests, diseases or weeds, always read the label, follow the instructions carefully and wear suitable protective equipment. Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.
Pomegranate: a deciduous shrub with highly ornamental flowers and delicious fruit.
Lime: an easy-to-grow small to medium tree, perfect for pots.
Plum: an attractive tree with small, sweet or sour fruit.
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