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Tropical, low-chill stone fruits!

When we think about growing fruit in warmer parts of the country, we usually think of citrus trees and the classic tropical fruits such as mangoes, avocados, lychees, macadamias, pawpaws, and passionfruit.

But many of the varieties we think of as cool climate fruits, like peaches and nectarines, can also be grown here. They are so success that there are commercial orchards in the Bangalow, Newrybar and Alstonville areas.

Peach Early Beauty Plantnet

Peach Early Beauty (Source: Plantnet)

But there is a trick, of course. If you want to grow peaches or nectarines in coastal areas north of about Port Macquarie, you need to plant ‘low chill’ varieties. The chilling requirement of a fruit tree is the minimum period of cold weather needed for the tree to produce viable blossom. The trees develop next year’s buds in summer. The buds become dormant in autumn and need to be exposed to sufficiently low winter temperatures for them to break dormancy in spring and produce flowers and fruit.

There are several low chill varieties of peaches and nectarines. All have pretty blossom in mid-late winter, followed by fruit which usually matures quite early in the season, around October.

‘Early Beauty’ Peach grows to approximately 3 metres by 3 metres, and is covered in lovely pink blossom in late winter/spring. It bears sweet, firm yellow fleshed fruit with a slight red pigment ripening in October. Nectarine ‘Sunny Belle’ is a similar size, and produces fruit with an attractive red speckled skin and white flesh. It also matures in October.

Super Dwarf Sunset Peaches and Nectarines grow to only 1-1.5 metres tall, and can be grown successfully in pots or in gardens. They have lovely deep red leaves, and pink blossom in winter/early spring. Both produce an abundance of full sized fruit – the nectarine has yellow flesh and the peach has white flesh. They mature in November/December.

Peaches and nectarines are self-pollinating so you only need one tree. They will become highly productive in 2-3 years.

You will need to protect the crop from fruit fly, but this is easy to do now with the organic Eco-Naturlure. Bats and birds might also compete with you for the delicious fruit. You can cover the tree with a fine insect mesh, or bag the individual fruit as it matures on the tree. Cover the fruit early for protection from fruit fly as well as birds, bats, and possums.

As a general rule, fruiting trees need a sunny position, excellent drainage, and adequate, regular water and fertilising. You will also need to commit to some maintenance, such as pruning, fertilising and mulching.

A well-grown, healthy fruit tree will certainly pay for itself within a year or two. And there is nothing quite as marvelous as eating fruit fresh from the tree.

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