Of all the succulent summer fruits that dribble down our chins, peaches are the juciest. Some summers, peaches at the market can be great. Other years, well, you could build a rock wall with the fruits pretending to be ripe. And they won't ripen sweet off the tree. So my advice is to grow your own. A good variety is peregrine. This super sweet fruit is easily grown against a warm sunny wall near the coast or, as in my case, in a poly-tunnel or glasshouse.
A peach is like a handful of sunshine in a tennis ball- sized package. But the season is short, peaking in July and August. So if you like them, now is the time to get planting. Of course, there are always frozen and canned peaches, but like most fruits and vegetables, nothing beats the flavour and nutrition of home-grown. For me , the taste of a peach announces that summer has arrived.
Peaches weigh in as the Western world's most sensuous fruit. Plump, juicy, succulent and sun-kissed, they arrive from the middle to the end of our Irish summer, offering us a fix of fragrant desserts, spicy jams and comforting pies. Impressionist artists like Cezanne, Monet and Renoir adored the fruit's sense-assaulting appeal, painting the peach in dazzling light and shadow - such is its enduring appeal.
I grew my first batch in 1995 ,that warm beautiful summer, and the young trees produced on average 40-60 on each tree. The sun shone from early April and temperatures exploded. By early August they were ripening fast to a sticky sweet luscious and juicy perfection. When I think back to how great that first crop tasted, it re-inspires me.
So anyone wishing to grow these wonders now is your time! Contact any good garden centre and order two or three espalier plants at a max of 45-55 euros. A semi vigorous rootstock helps. Prepare the ground in a good sunny-hot position lots of compost and leaf mould in the ground and plant in and up to the previous planting mark and make sure to water well.
As soon as the flowers appear from early to late march onwards open the doors of the tunnel or glasshouse and allow the bumblebees and honeybees to pollinate. These peaches are self fertile but failing that hand pollinate on sunny warm days with a little paintbrush - a little tip I've picked up in my 20 years working as as a landscape and garden designer. Apart from that keep watering, keep feeding and watch those perfect fruits develop.
The really amazing and wonderful part is that if you are prepared to wait for a year or two both fruits can be grown from seed very easily and will fruit within three years four at most. Follow the same culture as outlined above but next time you eat a really great fruit plant the seed in a small pot of compost and water from the base. Nine times out of ten times they will sprout...