Peach tree propagation provides a gardener with a lovely tree, showy blossoms and delicious fruit. It is vastly rewarding to nurture your peach from its beginning. Peach trees can be grown from seeds or cuttings. Often peaches are grafted or budded to rootstock in order to extend the growing season, or to replicate desirable characteristics in the fruit.
Open the pit of a fresh peach, taking care not to damage the seed inside. This can be done with a nutcracker, pliers, or in a vice. Remove the seed and discard the remains of the pit. Soak the seed overnight in warm water. Place it in a container of moistened moss, vermiculite, sand or some combination of these. Cover it with more of the same moistened material. Seal the container, but ensure some ventilation remains. A plastic bag with a few perforated holes works well. Refrigerate the seed keeping the temperature between 33 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The seed will need to remain chilled and moist for 90 to 120 days.
When the seed shows signs of growth it should be planted right away. Place the seed in a container of potting soil, or in a protected spot in the garden if the danger of frost has passed. Sow at a depth of approximately one inch, watering well. Transplanting, if needed, can be done when the seedling is healthy and strong with at least two sets of mature, true leaves.
Root cuttings early in the season before the trees have leafed out. Cut a portion of stem about the length and diameter of a pencil. Apply rooting hormone around the bottom. Place the cutting in a pot of moistened potting soil. Use care not to dislodge the hormone in the process. Firm the soil around the plant. Apply bottom heat to stimulate root development. Keep the growing medium moist, but not wet. Transplant only when the cutting is well established with robust roots. The speed with which the seedling will flower and produce fruit will vary with the variety and growing conditions. Often it will take 3 to 5 years for the first crop to arrive. Some lucky growers are rewarded even more quickly.
Grafting and Budding
If the planted seed came from a hybrid, the fruit it eventually provides may be quite different from that of the parent. Growers often ensure the consistent nature and quality of their fruit by budding. Budding is usually done in the summer. A thin “shield” holding a bud is inserted into a T-shaped cut in the bark of seedling rootstock. The green cambium layers of the bud and rootstock are mated, and the bud secured with tape or rubber bands. If this is done in early summer, the rootstock is cut above the level of the bud after two weeks. The bud is thus forced to grow, supporting the plant. Dormant buds taken later in the summer are not forced until the following growing season.
Experienced, enterprising home gardeners will extend their growing season by grafting a branch from a different peach variety onto their tree. This branch will flower and produce fruit at a slightly different time than the rest of the tree. In this way, fruit can be enjoyed over a longer period, despite limited growing space. It's a worthwhile pursuit, but one best left to experienced gardeners with access to supplies of plant stock.