Reasons for Getting Out the Pruning Shears
Let’s be honest: Pruning fruit trees requires some hard work, but if you neglect this task, you put the health and fruit production of your trees in jeopardy.
However, if you only have a small number of trees, and you know a couple of key principles about pruning peach trees, the hard work won’t take too much time, and you will be handsomely rewarded for your effort.
The flowers of a peach tree later become the fruit, and trees only produce blossoms, and therefore fruit, on wood in its second year of growth. If you don’t take out the old wood, the tree becomes overgrown with unproductive branches, and the harvest of ripe peaches goes down significantly.
Timing of Pruning for Peach Trees
The best time to prune a peach tree is shortly before it blooms in the spring. You can trim your trees before the buds appear, or you can wait until tight, pink buds are on the tree.
- Pruning too early when frost is still possible can harm the tree. A hard frost soon after trimming the tree can damage it. In most areas, peach pruning is done in February and March.
- When you first plant a peach tree, prune lightly to establish a desirable branch structure with limbs growing away from the trunk at a 45º angle. You will not need to prune again until after the tree is three years old and begins producing fruit.
Out with the Old and in with the New
Each year, a healthy, well-cared for peach tree produces new shoots growing 18 to 24 inches (46 to 61cm) in length. These shoots from last year are the ones which will produce fruit in the current growing season.
Older, grey-colored wood will not bear fruit, and this is what you need to trim out when pruning. It is common to remove up to 40 percent of the branches on a peach tree during pruning.
Start by removing root stock suckers and tall shoots growing vertically in the center of the tree. Also cut out any dead or diseased branches and branches which cross and rub each other.
Finish by cutting out the old wood and trimming the top of the tree to keep it from growing too tall.