Perhaps you chose to plant a peach tree in your yard because you love the sweet, juicy taste of a ripe peach in the middle of summer. Many people spend years making adjustments to their young trees only to find that they seem incapable of producing fruit. Where is that juicy peach you were hoping to get?
About Peach and Nectarine Trees
Technically, peach and nectarine trees (similar to peaches, but without any soft fuzz outside) are self-pollinating plants. This means that you can plant multiple trees near each other and ideally just let them take care of fruit production. If that doesn't work for you, it’s important to realize that you don’t need to leave everything up to chance.
Every time spring rolls around, your local pollinators are sure to find themselves overwhelmed by all the new blooms in the area. For this reason, people who want to get more peaches and nectarines often work extra hard to remove dandelions and other insect-drawing weeds from their gardens, making their peach and nectarine blossoms all the more enticing.
Regardless of whether you have low insect participation or simply live in a cooler climate, it can often be a good idea to take pollination into your own hands for the sake of yielding a bumper crop.
Hand-Pollinating Your Peaches and Nectarines
Using a fluff of cotton, an artist’s brush, or this grower’s presonal favorite, a clump of dog hair, you can gently brush the fluffy pollen from each flower's stamen onto the pistil. Just make sure that the item you select is not too rough on the delicate flower parts, and that it gathers at least a little pollen so you can move it freely between blossoms.
If you aren’t exactly sure how it looks, you can look up pictures of the peach flower’s anatomy to make sure you're dusting each flower well. Nonetheless, a gentle dusting of the entire visible flower is still likely to promote the movement of pollen to the pistil that needs it.
You should only have to do this once, but if you do a first pass before all of the buds have properly opened, consider revisiting the flowers the next time the weather's nice to see if you can pollinate any late bloomers.
It's important to note that this method of pollination is most effective on a small number of small trees. This is mostly because the dusting of each flower is a time-intensive process, and taller trees will simply require ladders or climbing. Using a long pole with a piantbrush affixed to the end, you might still be able to reach some of the flowers you might not otherwise be able to. You don't have to be precise, but you do have to be gentle. Swiping haphazardly at the flowers is more likely to detach them than is to pollinate them.
Working with A Lot of Trees
If you have a lot of peach/nectarine trees and are interested in increasing their fruit production, your best bet will be to pay attention to them each year and see what seems to work best (cotton, brush, fluffy hair, another implement). You can also decide to hand-pollinate them during different weeks of the spring season to see if a particular time works better than others. This is going to take a while, but you can alwaus make a day of it with some friends or family members — not to mention the fact that the information you gain from it will deifnitely make the process faster and easier come next year.
Even if you only have very young and small trees, hand-pollinating their flowers can still be extremely beneficial. For starters, it will help the plants flourish early on in their lives, even if they only produce one or two fruits during their formative years.
To help peach and nectarine trees thrive in your area, you'll find it helpful to get into an April routine of giving them some love. Self-pollination works best when there is an abundance of local insects and trees around, but a little extra TLC with a soft-bristled brush may be just what you need to get fruit from a smaller, solitary tree growing in a less-than-ideal climate.