The juicy, sweet fruit of the nectarine tree can be readily enjoyed by home gardeners with a basic understanding of planting and pruning techniques. Nectarine trees and peach trees have many genetic similarities and the following methods can be applied to both species in order to produce regular, bountiful crops.
Step 1 - Prepare for Planting
The nectarine tree should be planted in a sunny location. A well-drained soil is ideal, although the tree can survive in a wide range of conditions. The ground should be prepared by clearing the surrounding area of weeds and grass.
A deep enough hole should be made to cover the root system. Ideally, the hole should be around twice the size of the nursery pot that the young tree has been grown in, the hole should be at least 2 inches deeper than the pot.
Step 2 - Plant the Tree
Planting should take place during a period of winter dormancy. Late fall is ideal although the very early stages of spring should be fine as well, particularly if frosts have cleared.
Once you ready to plant, gently remove the nectarine tree from the nursery pot and place it into the hole. Use your fingertips to carefully distribute the root structure in an even manner and be sure to keep the tree as upright as possible. Gently add the topsoil so there is sufficient weight to hold the tree in position. Press down the topsoil to disperse pockets of air. Then, you can water the tree with a low stream.
Step 3 - Do Ongoing Care
Regular watering should take place, but do not water excessively. Extra water can be given during the last fortnight before harvesting as the fruit begins to swell. Also, mulch can be placed around the base of the tree to prevent weed growth and promote moisture retention in the root system.
A general purpose fertilizer can be spread after four to six weeks from the date of planting. Using five ounces of fertilizer is ideal and slightly smaller quantities should be fed in early June and late August. The fertilization process should be repeated annually.
Step 4 - Prune
Never prune until the risk of freezing temperatures has passed. When pruning, be sure to remove damaged or diseased branches. Tangled branches should be sparingly trimmed.
The central spine of the tree should have a clear, open appearance. Cut back to the main, lateral branch to encourage a stronger growth of side branches Remove the majority of branches that won’t bear fruit.
Step 5 – Harvest
When the nectarines reach the size of a marble, thin them by reducing clusters to a single fruit. By the time the fruits are as large as golf balls, further thinning should take place so all nectarines are at least eight to 10 inches apart.
Nectarines are ready to pick when the flesh of the fruit can be separated from the stalk using soft pressure from the fingers.