Ventilation

The Peach dislikes a close, stagnant atmosphere, and should be as freely ventilated as circumstances will admit of all through the process of forcing. If the house is kept too close and moist before the blossom expands, such conditions are sure to produce weakly blossom, and also dispose the wood-buds to too much precede the blossom, always an evil to be guarded against. Therefore give air, more or less, daily as weather permits, from the time the house is first shut up; and when the blossom is open, air freely on all dry days, and leave a little on all night, but guard against currents of cold frosty air. Most early forcers of the Peach will have observed that wherever cold gusts of frosty air have reached any part of the tree, at that particular part the process of setting has been the least satisfactory. While a circulation of dry warm air is desirable, it should be admitted in small quantities at many points, so as to prevent the blossoms from being subjected to blasts of it. In the case of early forcing, front ventilation should not be applied, unless the air can first be warmed, at least until the fruit have approached the colouring and ripening stage.

Like firing, ventilation must be cautiously regulated, according to the state of the weather, and when the fruit are ripe, a free circulation of warm dry air is necessary to flavour and colour them.

Moisture In The Air And Syringing

Although the Peach is a moisture-loving plant, I do not approve of heavy and too frequent syringing at mid-winter before the fruit are set. As has already been said, it has a tendency to bring the foliage too much in advance of the blossoms. Notwithstanding all that has been said in favour of syringing heavily when forcing is commenced, to cause the bloom-buds to swell freely, I have never observed that, with the house kept moderately moist without syringing, the blossoms burst at all less vigorous when syringing has never been practised till the fruit are set. The floor and paths should be sprinkled at shutting time, and on bright mornings after cold nights when extra fire-heat has been applied. As soon as the fruit are set, the syringe should be vigorously used every dry morning, and, especially in the afternoon, when the house is shut up with sun-heat.

Syringing should be thus continued until the fruit shows signs of ripening. The Peach is subject to red-spider, and syringing keeps that pest at bay, and it also likes moisture about its foliage. The morning syringing should always be early, so that rapid evaporation does not take place as ventilation is increased. Clear soot-water - that is, water in which dry fresh soot has been mixed and allowed to stand and become clear - may be applied occasionally with the engine • or syringe to advantage. The ammonia from the soot gives a dark healthy hue to the foliage.

Setting The Fruit

I have never found the least difficulty in getting Peaches to set freely, even when they have been started in November. The only means I have ever adopted to make a good set of fruit doubly sure, is to slightly increase the temperature immediately the blooms are fully expanded, to give rather more air, and to go over the blossoms at midday with a camel's-hair brush, and impregnate them, taking pollen from those sorts, such as Violette Hative, which produce it more freely than others, and applying it to such as Noblesse, which produce it more sparingly.

I do not think that setting depends so much on a very dry atmosphere as on a circulation of warm air, which causes the pollen to come to proper maturity. Some growers advise that the trees be syringed with tepid water when in full bloom, and practise this to set their Peach crop successfully. I have never adopted this, and never found it necessary, but it is practised by successful early forcers of the Peach. There can be no difficulty in accepting what has been said in its favour, inasmuch as it can be easily understood how the particles of pollen can be separated and carried down the pistil by means of water as well as air. It is, in as far as it can be aided, a mechanical process. I consider the chief thing is to produce a strong healthy bloom and fructifying organs, by cautious forcing, and then the setting of the fruit is almost a certainty.

Watering

It is difficult to lay down directions as to the time that Peaches require to be watered at the roots, so much depends on circumstances, such as the nature of the soil, etc. etc. In the case of trees having their roots in both inside and outside borders, it is never necessary in early forcing to water the outside border. The inside border should be thoroughly moistened to the bottom when the house is put in order for forcing. I have an objection to a Peach border becoming dusty-dry at any time; for if the trees once become too dry, and are then copiously watered, and started soon after, they are apt to cast their bloom-buds after they begin to swell. Under ordinary circumstances I have found a good watering when the house is about to be started, another after the fruit are set, sufficient. After this the constant syringing and damping keep the border from drying, and the watering after they are set will carry them to the stoning process. After they are stoned, two waterings will be enough till the fruit begin to ripen.

Then mulch the border with short dung, and no more water should be applied till the fruit are all gathered, after which the border must be kept moist till the wood is ripe, and the leaves dropping.

Manure-water may be freely applied at all times of watering in the case of full-grown, free-bearing trees. Young trees growing vigorously should not have manure-water, as their tendency to a gross growth will be stimulated by it.

Ripening And Gathering The Fruit

The colour and flavour of Peaches and Nectarines are perhaps more dependent on given circumstances than are the same qualities in any other fruit. Unless the sun shine directly on the fruit, it will not attain its proper colour; and unless, in addition to exposure to sunshine, they are subjected to a circulation of dry, warm air, the flavour is sure to be deficient. Consequently all leaves that intercept direct sunshine must be pushed aside, after the fruit has begun to take its last swelling. If the leaves cannot all be laid effectually aside, it is better to remove all or half the leaves of some than that they should shade the fruit. I have rarely found it necessary to cut the leaves or remove them entirely. When the wood is not too thickly tied in, such a necessity seldom occurs.

As directed under the head of ventilation, the Peach-house should be freely opened at top and front all day, and the wet-weather ventilation left open all night. The practice of pulling down the sashes, where this can be adopted, entirely exposing the fruit to sun and air, in ripening and colouring summer and autumn Peaches, is a good one. It gives high colour and flavour. Of course this should only be practised when the weather is clear and dry.

The experienced eye can tell, in case of the majority of sorts, when the fruit are fit to gather without handling them: when they are handled it should be with great nicety of touch, the Peach being very easily blemished when ripe. The crop should be looked over every day, placing the fingers gently behind those fruits that appear the ripest, and if with a gentle pressure from the branch the fruit does not easily separate from its stalk, leave it for another day. Each fruit should be carefully laid upon its base in a basket, the bottom of which is lined with wadding covered with tissue-paper, the fruit being regulated so that one does not touch another. It is well to gather Peaches and Nectarines for dessert six hours before they are sent to table, and leave them in the fruit-room to cool. Nets are sometimes fixed, and the fruit allowed to drop into them, but Peaches should never be allowed to drop if it can be prevented. It is, however, best to use such a precaution, to save any that may drop from injury.

Peaches keep a good many days after they are ripe in a cool place. In 1865 I kept such tender-fleshed varieties as Noblesse and Belle-garde for twelve days in close tin boxes placed in an ice-house after they were quite fit for table, and then exhibited them in Edinburgh. Nectarines keep fully longer in this way.

Packing Peaches To Be Sent To A Distance

When Peaches have to be sent by railway and other conveyances, great care is necessary in packing them. The safest way is to have tin boxes divided into compartments 3| inches square and 4 inches deep. In the bottom of each division put a little fine paper-shavings pressed down. Wrap each fruit carefully in a piece of tissue-paper, then set it on its base on a square of cotton wadding, which fold up over the fruit, taking each corner between the fingers and thumb, and drop it carefully into its place. There should be sufficient wadding round each to prevent oscillation. Over the whole surface of the box spread some fine paper-shavings, so that when the lid of the wooden box, into which the tin case should fit tightly, is screwed down, the shavings may press sufficiently on the wadding to keep all steady without bruising the fruit. In this way they can be sent long distances without the slightest damage. Peaches and Nectarines to be sent in this way should, however, never be over-ripe. Indeed they should be gathered a day earlier than when they are sent direct to table from the garden.