Grow Your Own Stone Fruits
Stone fruits are easy to grow. Once the trees are established, they’ll produce fruit for many years to come. They’ll need little care and attention apart from a yearly pruning and mulching, and watering in dry conditions.
Growing PeachesPeach trees are widely grown throughout the Mediterranean and require a sunny, sheltered site. Therefore they are not suitable for every garden in the UK. They can thrive in the British climate, providing they are offered protection from frost and grown in a sheltered against a south-facing wall.
Peaches prefer a well-drained, well-dug soil, incorporated with plenty of rich, organic matter. They take up to three years to produce fruit, but can produce up to 20kg of fruit from one tree. They can grow to 5m wide and 2.5m tall so you will need to give them plenty of room.
Peaches flower very early in spring, so will need to be protected from frost. It’s a good idea to grow your peach tree against a south-facing wall, as the risk of frost will be less severe here. However, this position can encourage the tree to flower earlier, and so be at more risk from frost. Therefore the best method of growing your peach is as an espalier against a wall, so it will be small enough to throw some fleece over if a frost is forecast.
Feed your peach tree once a year and mulch with rich, organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost. A sunny position is essential for ripening the fruit. Remove any leaves that block light from the fruits. Harvest them when they are slightly soft to touch and eat them on the same day.
Pests and DiseasesPeach trees are fairly untroubled by pests, although you may need to watch out for aphid infestations. Aphids are not a problem if they exist in small numbers – and they provide food for ladybirds, lacewings and hoverfly larvae. If they accumulate around the growing points of the tree, however, you may need to blast them away with your hose.
Growing Plums and GreengagesPlums and greengages grow easily in the UK and need very little maintenance. Plum trees flower in early spring and can be prone to being damaged by frost.
You can buy plum trees to suit nearly every type of garden. Fan-trained trees suit smaller areas as they grow to a height of around 2m, and a width of 3m. You cal also buy free-standing fruit trees, which grow to a height of around 2.5m. Bush-trained trees grow to up to 4m in height.
Some plum tress are self-fertile, but many require another tree growing nearby for pollination to occur. If you do choose a tree that requires another variety to cross-fertilise with, choose one that flowers at the same time.
Growing CherriesThere are two types of cherry: sweet and sour. Sweet cherries are best eaten raw and sour cherries are best used in cooking and jam making.
Cherry trees prefer a well-drained, light soil. The fruit will need to be protected from birds in the summer, either by netting around the individual fruit clusters or using a bird-scaring device such as a scarecrow.
Cherries are prone to attack from aphids, so if you grow them it’s worth encouraging ladybirds and lacewings to visit your garden, which will keep the aphid population in check. Simply plant wild flowers at the base of your tree to encourage natural predators and avoid using pesticides, which can kill them.
Growing ApricotsApricot trees are fast growing, hardy trees that will eventually reach a height of around 3m. They are best grown as a bush so you have better access to the fruit.
When planting the tree, cut back the main stem to encourage the growth of the side-shoots. Then as the plant grows, remove any branches that are growing vertically, and any branches that are susceptible to picking up disease, such as those rubbing together.
Plant bare-rooted trees from autumn, making sure they are in the ground by mid spring. They prefer a fertile, free-drained soil. They can tolerate chalky soils but will do less well in clay soils.
A three-year-old tree can produce at least 20 fruits; these appear in clusters on wood that is at least one year old. When the crop starts to swell, water the tree thoroughly. Harvest the fruits when they come off the tree easily.
Stone fruits are easy to grow and will produce fruit for many years. They require little attention apart from pruning and mulching yearly.