Most fruit trees are best grown from grafted trees that cost $25 to $35 each. But with peaches, nectarines and apricots, you can cut your cost to zero by growing fruit trees from seeds.
Because cross-pollination between varieties produces variable results, apples and some other fruit trees are usually not grown from seeds. (Instead, cuttings or buds of the best varieties are grafted onto rootstocks to produce trees that bear fruit just like the parent tree’s.) But the almondlike seeds in pits from peaches, nectarines and apricots do a good job of carrying on the desirable traits of their parents. You can simply sprout and grow a seed from a great-tasting specimen, and you have a good chance of sinking your teeth into sweet, juicy fruit from your own tree in only three to five years.
Summer is the best time for growing fruit trees, because you can seek out mid- or late-season varieties grown in your region. The best seeds come from fully ripe fruit. Avoid seeds from early maturing varieties because their seeds may not develop enough to sprout. Locally grown varieties are more likely to prosper in your garden compared to varieties grown a thousand miles away, and looking for likely candidates is tasty fun! Eat lots of peaches from farm stands and farmers markets, and save the pits from those that taste like peach heaven. And if you live where you can get local apricots and nectarines, you can try growing them from seeds too.
Cracking in Safely
Let the pits dry on your kitchen counter for a few days. Drying allows the seed inside the shell to shrink slightly so it’s easier to get out. The shell also becomes more brittle and easier to crack as it dries.
When the pits look and feel dry, you can crack them open to harvest the actual seeds, which look like almonds, a close botanical cousin. You can hold pits on edge and tap them with a hammer, which works well for a few pits but can cause high casualties in terms of accidentally smashed seeds (and fingers). You will lose far fewer seeds by cracking the pits with a vise, lodging both sides of the pit’s long seams between the opposing jaws. (See photo in the Image Gallery.) Crank the vise closed slowly — be careful for your fingers! — until the pit cracks.
If you don’t have a vise, try a nut cracker. Or you might get enough pit-cracking compression from another type of screw clamp, including the one that holds your food grinder, juicer or hand-cranked grain mill to your kitchen counter — you never know until you try! After you get the seeds out, put them in a closed container in your refrigerator or other place cool enough to store raw nuts.
The time for vegetables and flowers to sprout from seeds to transplants is measured in days or weeks, but with peaches and most other temperate-zone tree fruits, the pregermination process adds two to three months to the timetable. Natural sprouting inhibitors present in the seeds must be deactivated by exposure to cool temperatures for a two- to three-month period. In nature, this chilling period occurs naturally as winter cold comes, fluctuates and invariably leads to spring. You can simply plant peach, apricot and nectarine seeds in pots and bury the pots in a corner of the garden. Seeds that are not discovered by marauding squirrels, curious dogs or other vagaries of the great outdoors will probably sprout in spring.
Continue reading here: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/growing-fruit-trees-zmaz08jjzmcc.aspx
By Lee Reich
Photo by William D. Adams