Peach trees need to be pruned annually to promote yields and general tree vigor. Avoiding peach tree pruning will do the gardener no favor in the long run. When is the best time to prune back a peach tree? The following article contains information on how and when to prune a peach tree along with other helpful information regarding pruning a peach tree.
About Peach Tree Pruning
The performance of peach trees is dependent upon annual pruning combined with proper fertilization, irrigation and pest management. Left unpruned, peach trees become susceptible to increased diseases, shorter life and overproduction, resulting in smaller fruit.
There are several reasons for pruning a peach tree. Pruning creates a strong framework that is able to support large yields. It also aids in balancing fruit production and vegetative growth. Pruning is used to control the height and spread of a tree, allowing for easier harvesting.
Peach tree pruning is used to remove any diseased or broken branches, water sprouts and suckers as well as to open up the canopy of the tree to allow for better light and air penetration. Lastly, pruning is used to thin the crop prior to blooming, which reduces the amount of fruit that has to be hand thinned.
The best time to prune a peach tree is in the early spring before the sap begins running. Pruning in the early spring will reduce the chances of pest infestation. Springtime pruning is also easier since without foliage, the shape of the tree is easier to view. Avoid pruning in the winter, as this can reduce the cold hardiness of the tree.
How to Prune a Peach Tree
Peaches bear fruit and bloom on second year wood, so they need to grow well during the spring and summer to assure a bountiful crop for the following year. If the trees aren’t pruned, the amount of fruiting wood is reduced each year and the fruiting shoots get more and more out of reach as the tree grows.
The goal when pruning peach trees is to remove old, slow growing, non-fruitful shoots and leave 1-year-old, 18- to 24-inch red bearing shoots. About 40% of the tree should be pruned out annually.
The first step is to remove all rootstock suckers, hanger shoots and water sprouts from the lower three feet of the tree. Also, remove any gray, non-fruiting shoots but leave the reddish 1-year-old shoots. Prune out any dead, diseased or otherwise damaged branches.
Now step back and take a good look at the tree. Consider the desired end result. Peach trees are pruned into a “V” or vase shape with 3-5 main branches forming the vase. These main branches should be as evenly spaced as possible and angle out and up at a 45-degree angle. The goal is to leave the center open to air and sunlight.
Restrain the height of the tree by topping off all the branches at a height that you can reach easily. This will help you access the tree for maintenance and harvest.
Select the 3-5 main branches you wish to keep and remove any other large branches. As you choose those you want to keep and remove, consider the removal of any limbs that grow inward or down, or horizontal. Remove any other shoots or pencil sized branches that are growing in towards the tree or straight up or down. Cut the remaining fruiting, red shoots down to around 18-24 inches at an outward facing bud.
That should do it. Your peach tree is now ready to provide you with a season’s worth of peach pies and other delicacies.