Pruning Peach Trees
You should be pruning peach trees early in the spring.
Why prune in early spring?
- You want to prune the branches before sap starts running in them. The cut areas are less susceptible to bug infestation in the early spring.
- Without leaves and blossoms, you can see easily see the shape of the peach tree.
- The direction of the tree needs to be set before starting its growth spurt.
- Pruning the peach trees in the winter can reduce the trees cold-hardiness.
Why prune peach trees?
- Pruning a peach tree opens up the tree and allows sunlight to shine on the fruit. This is important for healthy fruit production.
- If you’re going to spray your trees for diseases or pests, an open tree helps with equal coverage.
- Peach twigs can be killed in one growing season by too much shading. If there’s too much shade, eventually no fruiting wood will be present in the lower part of the tree.
Three different tools come in handy when pruning peach trees.
How to Prune Peach Trees:
Imagine what your hand looks like when holding a giant peach. When pruning peach trees, the shape of your hand is very similar to the shape of the pruned peach tree. The center is open with about 5 main branches angling upward at 45 degrees. Of course, unlike your hand, the branches are evenly spaced around the tree.
Each one of these main branches holds another hand. This second hand is what carries and bears fruit.
Follow these guidelines, and use common sense. When pruning peach trees, keep walking around the tree and look at the tree from a different perspective. The tree should look balanced from every angle.
- The first and easiest step is to prune off all the suckers. These are the little shoots that spring up from the roots of the plant.
- Now prune off dead, diseased, or unhealthy branches. Also pull off any old dried fruit.
- You want to keep your tree short. I stand on the ground and crop the branches as high as I can reach with the clippers. Some people prune their peach trees even lower than this.
The fruit will develop on the new growth. If you have a tall limb where the only new growth is high above your head, cut off the limb.
By keeping the tree low year after year, you’ll encourage the tree to send out side branches instead of tall branches that reach to the sky. It’s a lot easier to prune, pick, and care for a low growing peach tree than a tall one.
- This next step is the most important in shaping, training, and pruning peach trees.
Choose 4-6 branches that come off the trunk. These branches should be angling upward at about 45 degrees. If there are branches growing up the center of the tree, prune these out.
Looking at an aerial view of the tree, the area where the fruit and leaves grow looks more like a doughnut than a ball.
Now you’re going to trim up the remaining limbs.
- First prune out any branches that are growing horizontal and downward. They have a tendency to break and crack when the fruit gets heavy.
Major damage can occur when branches break. The tree will also be more susceptible to disease and insect infestation.
You can train and encourage a branch to angle upward. In the picture, there are a couple branches that are growing in the wrong direction. There’ s some new growth on one of the branches that’s growing in the right direction. Make a cut right after the new growth, encouraging the branch to grow at a 45-degree angle.
- Cut off any vertical branches. The ideal angle of a branch is about 45 degrees angling upward.
- Check the remaining branches to see if there are any branches that are crossing over each other. Pick the ones that support the general shape of the tree and prune out the others.
- Crop off any branches that are shooting to the sky. Choose a height for your tree, and prune off any branches that go higher than that mark.
- Run your peach trimmings through a wood chipper. This makes great organic matter for your garden. See
Types of Soil.
We'll talk about thinning peaches, planting peaches trees, and caring for your trees on the growing peach trees page. (link coming)
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