Peaches are very delicate with easily bruised thin skin. While the trees are considerably sturdier than the fruit, there are a few tips and tricks you should know about pruning your peach trees to ensure healthy trees and a good crop:
- Purchase healthy peach trees from a reputable nursery or garden center. The most opportune time to do this is in the spring.
- Plant your peach trees in an open area with full sun. Peach trees need warm (hot) temperatures, lots of sunshine and good air flow to be healthy and productive.
- After you’ve planted your peach trees, careful attention must be given to their care. A systematic program of spraying and pruning is vital to their health and productivity.
- Pruning is very important for the following reasons:
- Pruning allows you to remove any broken or damaged branches from your trees which, if left untended, could harbor disease.
- Pruning small scraggily branches allows the nourishment that would have been wasted on them to go to the stronger branches that will ultimately bear more and better fruit.
- Pruning branches from the tree’s base (lower than the 24 inches) will prevent your trees from splitting. Peach trees aren’t the sturdiest to begin with so anything you can do to strengthen the trunk will help prolong the life and quality of your trees.
- Your pruning technique has a great deal to do with preventing many types of disease. While most fruit trees need to be pruned as close to the supporting branch as possible, peaches should not be pruned this way. When pruning a peach tree, leave what is called a ‘collar’ one-half to one inch long. In other words, leave one-half to one inch of the branch you are pruning on the tree. This will allow quicker and cleaner healing of the bark. Also, it is important to cut straight across — not at an angle. Make sure your shears or saw are sharp and won’t leave torn and jagged edges.
- The branches of peach trees should be no closer than 6-12 inches from each other, depending on the size of the tree. This allows the fruit to receive the amount of sun and air flow that it needs to grow optimally.
- Pruning your young trees in moderation (removing everything less than 24 inches from the ground, as mentioned earlier) will help to shape the tree and bring strength to the base of the tree. Be careful not to prune a young tree too heavily or you will delay its ability to produce peaches.
- Peach trees need to be pruned regularly. Your first prune of the season should be between the time the leaves are all set on and when the tree is in full bloom. This will be in late winter or early spring, depending on what the climate is like in your area. This is the time to remove the branches that didn’t make it through the winter. But remember, the leaves make the tree’s food, so cutting away more than necessary is likely to retard the growth of the tree as well as its ability to bear fruit.
- The timing of the second prune of the season depends on what is needed. If you want to slow their growth (too bushy), then midsummer will be the right time. If it’s minor reshaping or damaged and scraggly branches that need removing, wait until late summer. But whatever you do, DON’T prune your trees within a month of cold weather setting in. Pruning then will not give the trees enough time to heal before the cold weather comes — a susceptible time for peach trees to be stricken with disease.
- By pruning regularly you will avoid having to cut larger branches. This is advantageous for preventing canker — a disease common to peach trees. The smaller the area there is to scab over, the less chance there is for canker or other infestations to set in.
You might be thinking at this point that peach trees are more work than they’re worth. For some that might be true, but it all comes down to educating yourself on their needs and then establishing management practices to meet those needs. It’s really not as tedious as it sounds. Many feel this delicious and low calorie source of vitamin c and potassium is worth it… Of course the ‘low calorie’ part depends on how much ice cream you eat with them.