Stone fruit

Stone fruit includes cherry, peach, nectarine, plum and apricot. They are handsome spring-flowering trees that produce delicious fruit in summer and autumn. For small gardens or for containers, look for dwarf forms such as Dwarf Nectarine Royal Gem or Dwarf Plum Narrabeen.

Plant potted stone fruit at any time (but avoid extremely hot or cold conditions). In winter, stone fruit are widely available bare-rooted. At planting time and to reduce transplant stress, water with Seasol or Seasol GOLD. Before planting improve soil by digging in well-rotted manure or compost or for a no dig option use Seasol Liquid Compost.

As there are many varieties choose your favourites, but if space allows grow several varieties that ripen at different times to extend the harvest season.
Some stone fruit including European plums, apricots and some cherries require cross-pollination for fruiting.

TIP: If you are unsure of the variety of a stone fruit such as cherry, peach or plum that would suit your garden, check out your hardware or garden centre, who will have expert knowledge of the varieties that will suit your location.

Growing conditions

Aspect All stone fruit need a bright, sunny location with shelter from strong winds. Ideally, they should have sun from the morning onwards but can tolerate a little afternoon shade especially in summer.

Soil Stone fruit grow in a wide range of soils but grow best with good drainage in deep, fertile soils. Keep soil well mulched and grass in orchards regularly mown.

Climate Most stone fruit are cold climate plants that require a period of winter chill to flower and fruit, however varieties of peach, nectarine and Japanese plum may fruit in warm temperate and even subtropical climates.

General care

Watering Adequate and regular watering is critical for fruit formation and development. Lack of water can lead to loss of flowers or fruit. Deep water at least weekly especially when plants are in new growth, flowering or fruiting. Reduce watering as fruit ripens. Excess water close to harvest can lead to fruit splitting (especially for cherries). Water more frequently if plants are in hot, dry or exposed conditions or if they are growing in containers.
If water is pooling on top of the soil or running off, then it could be hydrophobic – repelling water. Apply Seasol Super Soil Wetter & Conditioner to the soil to ensure water goes to where it is needed, the plant’s root system.

Feeding and mulching Feed every season during the growing season (spring, summer, autumn) with a complete fertiliser for fruiting plants such as Seasol plus Nutrients Fruit & Citrus. In winter when trees are dormant apply an application of Seasol Plant + Soil Booster around the canopy of the tree to revitalise soil. In addition apply a liquid fertiliser such as PowerFeed PRO SERIES Fruit & Citrus every 2 to 4 weeks during the growing season for a bumper crop of tasty passionfruit. Plants in containers can be liquid fed every 2 to 4 weeks as above, while they are growing (spring to autumn). Protect the area around the base of the plants with a 5-7cm layer of coarse organic mulch, which helps keep the soil evenly moist and weed free.

Pruning All trees require formative pruning when small to encourage an open, branching structure for good fruit production and regular pruning after harvest or in winter to produce productive wood.

Watch out The main pests of stone fruit include pear and cherry slug, which attacks the leaves in late spring, summer and autumn. Fruit fly will also attack ripening fruit. Birds are also a problem so trees may need to be netted in summer and autumn using bird and animal safe netting or enclosed in a fruit cage. Diseases including curly leaf and brown rot are controlled by applications of copper or lime-based spray such as Sharp Shooter Lime Sulphur before bud burst at the end of winter.