Do all peach trees need to be bowl-shaped?

wardog25February 1, 2013

I got a 1-year old Floridaprince peach tree last year and it grew a lot since then. More than doubled in size.

I didn't realize until recently that they are supposed to be pruned to a bowl shape. I wasn't thinking about pruning and I allowed a lot of its growth to be in the middle.

Any suggestions? At about 2 feet up, i have 3 branches coming out, so i could prune off everything above that if I had to. Although 2 of the 3 branches come out of the same node. is that bad?

But if I top it at 2 feet, I'll be cutting off about 2/3 of the tree.

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olpea(zone 6 KS)


I prefer a bowl shape, but peach trees can be trained to a central leader.

If you want the vase shape, its not too late. For a vase, it's fairly standard practice to cut the center of the tree out after a season of growth.

Although I prefer to start my scaffolds at 2' or less, there's also nothing magic about that number. I have several trees w/ scaffolds at 3' and one w/ scaffolds at 4'.

If it were my tree, I'd go ahead and cut the tree at 2' (removing 2/3 of the tree). You don't want two scaffolds coming out at the same node, so I'd prune one of those off as well (keeping the one that has the best crotch angle). That will leave you with only two scaffolds, but I have some peach trees w/ two scaffolds and they fill in just fine.

Of course it may be a bit disheartening to butcher the tree this much, but I place a high value on getting a good scaffold structure started, even if it means pruning off a lot of productive wood.

Once you have your scaffolds selected, you'll get a lot of wood on the scaffolds that wants to grow vertical. You can tie some of the shoots more horizontal and your tree will spread out and fill in the open spaces quicker.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 8:47PM
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olpea, thanks for the info. I wondered if that was the advice I would get. It's hard to cut off that much wood, but I know it grows fast, so that is nice.

Lots of new branch buds came out on the trunk last year. Would it be wise to let 1 or 2 of those develop in that same area and become new scaffolds, so I'd have 3 or 4 instead of 2?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 9:34PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

Yeah I'd develop another scaffold if you have some viable buds. You can develop a bowl shaped tree w/ just two scaffolds, but w/ three the tree fills in faster.

I used to prefer four scaffolds for a nice symmetrical tree, but it really becomes too crowded with four for the way I prune. Three evenly spaced scaffolds seems about right for me.

About a month ago I was at a peach farm where they try to leave five scaffolds one each tree, so there isn't really a magic number, but most of the industry seems to shoot for three.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 10:40PM
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I think the reasons that peaches are open center/vase pruned (please correct me if im wrong olpea :D ) is due to the growth rate of peaches, and their fruiting habits (on second year growth).

Open center pruning encourages a "low" but wide tree, where sunlight reaches the center of the tree. It also makes harvesting, and thinning easier on a low tree. I think the main reason is due to the vigour. It would be hard to prune a peach (usually quite a hard pruning when young IIR).

Simply, as far as ive read, vase/open center pruning just makes it easier on you, in regard to peaches.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 6:45AM
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alan haigh

There are many reasons peaches are trained to an open center but the most important issue is keeping new wood generating throughout the tree as once old wood stops generating new buds they are often impossible to induce on peach trees.

You can maintain a central leader peach tree if you make sure that the center doesn't excessively shade lower wood which eventually creates "dead spots" on the interior of lower scaffolds. This is most effectively done by doing summer pruning while trees are still in rapid growth. Highest, most vigorous new shoots are removed to keep sun reaching the new wood (shoots)lower in the tree.

4 scaffolds are sometimes recommended so that if one breaks you still have an efficient shape that can easily be guided to fill the hole created by the break. If the branches are selected for strength (no narrow crotches) and peaches adequately thinned, breaks should be rare and a three scaffold system the most efficient.

I always start my peaches as central leader trees and then usually cut out the center after a few years. I like to use branch spreaders and a center provides a point to push lower branches to a more horizontal position. Spreaders are much quicker than tying.

It is far better to remove problem branches early in a trees development and peaches will respond to heavy pruning more vigorously than most species because even youngest wood devotes a lot of energy to developing flowers and fruit which is an energy sink.

Any branch more than half the diameter of the trunk at point of attachment after its first season is a problem branch and is prone to breaking and also throwing a trees form out of whack. On species slower to fruit than peaches such branches can also delay fruiting. They can also starve out the leader (dominance) of a central leader tree.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 7:14AM
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