Pruning Peach Trees For The Largest Harvest

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Do you have a peach tree that only fruits every other year?  Or maybe it only gets fruit on the very top where it’s hard to pick.  Perhaps you get a lot of tiny peaches?  The solution to these problems is likely very simple.  Pruning!  Pruning peach trees is not difficult to do, and it can make a big difference in the amount of fruit you harvest!

A great reference book for your homestead library is Pruning Made Easy by Lewis Hill.  It includes detailed information on pruning in general, illustrations, plus species specific information.  It’s one you’ll want to have on hand for a quick reminder again and again.

One of the things I love about our new homestead is that we have a few fruit trees that were already here.  When we left Portland, the fruit trees I had planted were just barely starting to produce, and that was pretty hard to leave.  But this summer we got peaches anyway!

The kids thought it was great fun to go out every day and pick fruit.  However, the poor little peach tree needs some attention.  It’s growing sideways and in all sorts of directions.

Also, I didn’t get out to thin it, so we had lots of tiny little fruits.  Yummy, but tiny.  We ate them pretty much as quickly as we got them inside.  Well, to be fair, we ate quite a lot outside as well 😉

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I know how to PLANT fruit trees, but learning how to prune them is something I haven’t had the opportunity to learn yet.  That means now is the time to learn!  Here’s how to prune your peach tree so you can get the largest possible harvest and have a healthy tree.

Pruning Peach Trees Isn’t Hard

Pruning peach trees is similar in principle to pruning other fruit trees.  Your goal is to encourage healthy growth of fruiting wood that’s easy to reach.  Pruning will also help your tree to have strong vigorous growth.

Peaches grow on the second year wood.  Keep that in mind as you select which branches to prune.

Peaches also need light to fruit.  By thinning out the branches on the top you help light reach all the layers of the tree so you don’t just have fruit at the top where it’s hard to pick.

When you’re done, the mature tree should be in a bowl shape, with three to five main branches, and more fruiting branches between about 3-7 feet high.  Check out Provident Living Today for some great pictures of how to shape your tree.

You can also see diagrams of all the different tree shapes in Pruning Made Easy.

When To Prune Peach Trees

Late winter is the best time to prune your trees.  Generally, that means February right before the sap starts to run.  If you prune too early, you make the tree less cold hardy.  Your tree is also less vulnerable to bugs at this time of year.

Young trees can be pruned in the summer after fruiting to help them develop their shape.  Pruning in the summer is less likely to stimulate an intense amount of regrowth.  This means if you have a neglected tree, late summer is a good time to get it into shape.

If you are in an area with very harsh winters, you may want to avoid pruning in late summer.  Overly cold winters can cause frost damage that will need to be cut off, so it’s best to wait until late winter to avoid over pruning.

How To Prune Peach Trees

When pruning, make your cuts slanting, about a quarter of an inch above a bud.

First remove any dead, damaged, or diseased branches.

Next, remove branches that are growing down towards the ground, crossed branches, or branches that rub together.

Remove any suckers at the base of the tree and any water sprouts.  Water sprouts will be a clump of new growth at a pruning wound.

Trim branches at the top of the tree to encourage light filtration and keep it easier to harvest

Remove a few older limbs that will not be bearing fruit any more.

When you are finished, sanitize your tools so you don’t spread any disease or pests to other plants and trees.

How To Thin Peach Trees

When your tree starts to bear fruit, improve the harvest by thinning.  Thinning your peach tree will help the remaining fruits grow larger.

When the green fruits are about the size of marbles, pull some off so that the remaining fruits will be about seven inches apart.

Pruning peach trees helps them be their healthiest and produce lots of delicious fruit for you!  Take a look at your peach tree today, and see what pruning needs to be done, and write it down on your calendar so you won’t forget when the time comes!

I also recommend picking up a copy of Pruning Made Easy to have on hand for any pruning related questions around the homestead.

Sources:
Virginia Cooperative Extension – Pruning Peach Trees
Pruning Made Easy – by Lewis Hill
Texas Cooperative Extension – Pruning Peach Trees

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