In the garden: Peachy keen
The prospect of plucking stone fruit straight from the tree may be just the motivation to get growing.
If you want to decorate your garden with early spring blossoms and late summer fruit, you can choose from hundreds of varieties of stone fruit to buy and plant during winter. Or, if you have a sense of fun, patience and frugality, propagate a peach tree from seed and a plum tree from a cutting.
Procure a bag of peaches that grows well in your locale from a local orchard or generous neighbour or friend. Eat your fill and keep the stones. Wash, scrub, dry and store stones in
an airtight bag in the fridge until next spring. Then, crack open the stone, being careful not to damage the seed within, and plant in a large pot filled with potting compost and water. Cover the pot with glass or plastic until the seed germinates in about a month or two. Keep lightly moist and ensure the ‘plant’ sits in a sunny sheltered position for the year, feeding lightly with a general fertiliser once it has developed its true leaves. After a year of nurturing in the pot, plant it outside in a sunny, sheltered and well-drained final position.
Peaches are self pollinating so can be grown as a single tree, and will start bearing fruit after three years and continue to do so for up to ten years.
For plum trees, take a cutting from a tree in summer. The cutting should be a 30cm-length green stem with an end bud with no fruit or flowers – and it should include a 5cm length of the main branch from which it is cut (a heel) so you have a T-shaped cutting. Remove all leaves and plant in a 50/50 compost and sand mix, heel down so that two-thirds of the cutting is buried. Keep moist and it will set roots and start growing. Next spring transplant to its final position.
Plums can self-pollinate but raising different species will give better pollination and yield. Plums take two to five years before bearing fruit, but will fruit for fifty years. As with all fruit trees you will need to manage diseases, pests, nutrients and pruning in order to enjoy the fruits of your labour.