Apricots, Peaches and Nectarines
By: Jonathan Sturm

Apricots and peaches are stone fruit, related to plums and almonds. Nectarines are smooth peaches, or peaches are fuzzy nectarines. The flavour of tree ripened peaches, apricots and nectarines bears no resemblance to the rubbish sold in shops.

Peaches and Nectarines

Peaches and nectarines are the most widely grown stone fruit. They bear early and heavily. By growing a wide variety, you can have a three or four month supply of the fruit. Most varieties have a chilling requirement of 800-1200 hours and so are not suited to the sub-tropical or tropical areas of Australia. They are susceptible to the fungal disease, brown rot that is propagated in warm, wet weather so the best fruit is produced in areas having a dry summer. They are moderately frost susceptible, the young fruit being killed by frost.

These trees must have free draining soil. The addition of copious quantities of compost to heavy soils is essential. Where long periods of heavy rain are the norm, some sort of drainage system in the soil is essential. Lots of feeding is imperative, as they have a heavy requirement for nitrogen to give of their best.

The trees can be planted as close as 1.5 m apart, though 3 m is more usual. The close-planted trees require more summer pruning to prevent the formation of a useless thicket. Peaches fruit on last year's wood. These fruiting laterals are ideally 30-40 cm long. Pruning consists of removing laterals that have already fruited and thinning the remainder to a spacing of 15-20 cm.

Fruit thinning is essential to obtain good-sized fruit. Six to eight weeks following full bloom, after the normal fruit drop, the remaining fruitlets are thinned to a spacing of 15-20 cm or about 15 peaches per metre of main limb.

The fungal diseases of brown rot and peach leaf curl can take a heavy toll. Bordeaux mixture (or other copper based fungicide) sprayed at pink bud is a good preventive. (More fungal control methods). Make sure you remove any mummified fruit from the trees and dispose of them in a hot compost heap.

Nearly all peaches and nectarines are self-fertile, the exception being the peach, J.H. Hale. It needs another variety to fertilise its flowers since its own pollen is sterile.

Peach and Nectarine varieties
PeachesMaturesSkinFleshFruit SizeStoneBottleComments
OrionVERedWhiteMedFreeNoFrost sensitive
AlbatrossVERedWhiteMedClingNoSoft, good colour
CardinalERedYellowMedClingNoFirm, good flavour
AnzacERedWhiteMedFreeNoVery good flavour
BealeMRedWhiteLargeFreeNoGood flavour
RedhavenMRedYellowMedFreeYesMay need thinning
FragarLRedWhiteMedClingNoAromatic, high yield
J.H. HaleLRedYellowLargeFreeNoFruit keeps well
GlenaltonLRedYellowMedFreeYesHigh yield
SummersetVLRedYellowLargeFreeYesHigh quality
Golden QueenVLYellowYellowMedClingOnlyCanning variety
NectarinesMaturesSkinFleshFruit SizeStoneBottleComments
IndependenceERedYellowMedClingYesFirm flesh, nice flowers
SungrandMRedYellowMedFreeNoLarge tree, thin heavily
FlavortopLRedYellowLargeFreeNoExcellent flavour
GoldmineLRedWhiteSmallFreeNoMain commercial variety
FairlaneVLRedYellowLargeClingYesVigorous tree

Maturity (Dates for Melbourne, Victoria, Australia):
VE=Very Early, December
E =Early, December/January
M =Midseason, January/February
L =Late, February/March
VL=Very Late, Late March


Most of the foregoing applies to apricots, the chief differences being the greater vigour of apricot trees, and that apricots bear their fruit mainly on two and three year old wood. Apricots also flower very early, so if you are in a frost prone area, choose an appropriate variety. Apricots set a lot of fruit, so thin the fruit heavily, both to ensure adequate fruit size and reduce the possibility of biennial bearing. Apricot wood is also very brittle. Limbs too heavily laden with fruit tend to break off.

Prune apricots lightly, as large cuts are prone to fungal disease. To reduce the chances of infection, prune when the weather is warm and dry. Water shoots are best cut back in summer. Remove or shorten shoots competing with the leader and thin out lateral shoots to avoid crowding. Most apricot trees are pruned as an open vase, but they could be trellised on a palmette. Trained this way against a stone or brick wall, they would be less susceptible to frost.

Apricot Varieties
Early OullinsEarlyLarge fruit, pale colour, good flavour
BlenheimMid-seasonAromatic, cracks easily, fresh, drying & jam
TrevattMid-seasonRipens evenly, biennial bearing, fresh, drying & jam
TiltonLateLarge fruit, suits cool districts, fresh, drying & jam
MoorparkLateBest flavour, ripens unevenly, biennial, fresh, drying & jam
MoroccoLateDry flesh, firm, fresh, drying & jam
HunterVery LateLarge, good flavour, ripens quickly, firm
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