Peach Tree Pruning

Yesterday, I pruned our peach tree. I prune our peach tree every winter to keep it small and manageable. Our tree is a small 7 year old tree. It only took about 20 minutes to prune.

Last summer, our tree grew vigorously, but some of the newly grown branches were long and weak. I trimmed those branches to prevent them from breaking next summer under the weight of the fruit.
I also cut off all of the high branches above about 10 feet, so that the tree will not develop fruit that is difficult to reach on high branches. I also cut off all of the branches that were sagging down and branches that were crossing or touching other branches. In general, I try to cut off enough branches to keep the tree in a small compact shape.

Recently, I bought a book entitled “How to Prune Fruit Trees” by R. Sanford Martin. This book provides specific details on how home growers should prune fruit trees. According to the book, different techniques should be used when pruning each particular type of fruit tree. For example, peach trees require different pruning techniques than pear trees. I didn’t know that until I read this book. I used to think that the same pruning technique could be applied to all types of fruit trees.

According to this book, ideal pruning techniques require much more attention to detail and the particular type of fruit tree being pruned. The book covers specific pruning techniques for a few dozen different varieties of fruit trees and bushes.

Peach trees develop all of their fruit on new branches that grew during the previous summer. Also, as I have discovered, peach trees tend to set a large number of small sized fruits.

Different sources suggest different techniques for forcing a peach tree to develop a small number of peaches that are large in size. Some sources advise cutting off a portion of the length of each of the new branches and twigs that grew during the previous summer. Cutting off a portion of each new branch will transfer the tree’s energy into the remaining buds, producing larger and better peaches next year. Other sources suggest entirely cutting off a large percentage (e.g, half) of the newly grown branches, while leaving the other new branches untrimmed. Of course, newly grown branches that are too long should be trimmed according to both techniques.

Last summer, our small peach tree produced over 100 small peaches. I was disappointed that the fruit was not larger, and I resolved to do something about it next year. Yesterday, I trimmed all of the newly grown branches and twigs back by about one-half in an attempt to reduce the amount of fruit production next year. I found that the newly grown branches are easy to identify, because they are thin, green and red in color, and are not woody like the older branches.

I will report back on the results next year. If our tree still produces more than about 50 fruits despite the new pruning method, I will thin them out in May.

December 08 2008 12:59 pm | Peaches/Nectarines