How should I prune/train my Peach Trees?

WaterIsLife32601(9a)November 11, 2012

Hi everyone,

I have read extensively on planting and pruning/training Peach trees from several University Extension sites. These usually start with heading the tree and then go on from there to create the open center (e.g. http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/ag29.html).

Since I have planted 2 trees this Fall in Gainesville, Florida (Tropic Snow and Flordacrest), I am unsure how to prune/train my trees.

My trees have been headed and the picture here shows a 4-foot level in the picture for scale. My question is this: Ir order to create the open-center/vase shape of my tree, should I trim back these branches that are going vertical? Should I train them somehow to make them less upright? if so, how?

Thanks in advance!

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gator_rider2(z8 Ga.)

Its not open center its open vase shape small opening in middle tree don't use Texas Long Horn style of opening on peach tree. Your tree looks okay, but close to house so loose limb for that area. At pruning select four limbs to leave from trunk take out others. keep top pruning these 4 so grow out ward this keep crop pick able from ground remember peaches on whip weight limb down 2 to 3 foot lower.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 6:30PM
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WaterIsLife32601(9a)

Thanks!

When I choose the limbs to keep, how far back should I prune them? Best to do it this winter or after new growth begins in the Spring?

My trees are close to the house, so this will also influence my choices in pruning and shaping them. Though they do appear closer to the house in the picture than they actually are, they are close nevertheless! Its the price that must be paid to have an edible landscape in a downtown urban setting!

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 6:04PM
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gator_rider2(z8 Ga.)

I would cut anything that got to 8 foot tall let spread outward the way make spread outward is to remove any growth on inside limbs including rub off buds. You can by pruning guide growth right where want it to go a peachtree recover from pruning cuts fast. I would wait till next spring to start shaping tree right after new growth starts during the pruning I would first maintain height then shape. This take several several pruning during year I think did 8 this year on first year tree as tree get older like 3 years it slow down times per year. In south they have long growing season 3rd year you have very large tree. I don't like use time to prune because it get out control in 3 to 4 weeks when fast growing all that cut off could been growth on tree sometimes bud brake growth in wrong direction grow 3 to 4 inches before I cut off I'm really sleeping if grows 3 to 4 feet.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 5:44AM
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eskota

Hey, Gator Rider.

I'm out looking at my 2010-planted peach and nectarine trees, and kind of have the same question. If I follow, you're saying to take out the leader, then let limbs develop and grow upward, not straight out. Do you pick a certain height (3', 4', higher?) to loose the leader?

I let mine grow with way too many limbs, probably need to cut more than half out now. I think about those commercial orchards down below Mt.Pleasant, they really butcher those trees every year. I wish I knew the thinking behind it because they get big beautiful Harvesters that way. One of my trees made lots of peaches this year, but they were small despite thinning to 8" apart.

Do you have a formula for what to leave when you prune? Just cutting the growth over 8' will take a lot from mine as most are closer to 15'.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 12:19PM
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eskota

Here's one of those extension articles that's more detailed than most. Still, their 3-year pruned tree doesn't look anything like the stubby things in the commercial orchards.

Here is a link that might be useful: peach tree pruning

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 8:39AM
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gator_rider2(z8 Ga.)

I'm out looking at my 2010-planted peach and nectarine trees, and kind of have the same question. If I follow, you're saying to take out the leader, then let limbs develop and grow upward, not straight out. Do you pick a certain height (3', 4', higher?) to loose the leader?

I pick loose central leader from one year old after grafting seedling after planting in winter this one year old graft cut by measuring from ground up 30 inch high cut central leader there. Then your plant should have at least 4 limbs below cut off point.
I train these 4 limbs to grow at 45 degrees from trunk they try and more upward so tip them rub all buds off inside limb leaving outside buds this turn limb back to 45 degree this take about 4 time to get spread right you should have spread on all 4 limbs by end growing season and one cut off to 8 foot maximum height. Second year peaches forum on outside limb help by there weigh keep right 45 degree spread. only remove fruit save limb from braking.

That very good link smaller vase shape in center on young tree is best later when tree get larger you open vase shape some.
Trees at mt. Pleasant are very old for peach tree I saw in 1970's they look like regular peach tree there post like shape come later when old tree. They use diesel 1/2 gas burners to warm orchard for frost then got tower fans later they cut trees that old here around Warner Robins Georgia same way.
Good here from you again Bob Wells Nursery South you good place visit he has good plants for your area.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 7:31PM
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eskota

So you're back in Georgia now? Still taking care of the Bowie County homestead? Our new Texarkana place is too crowded and noisy, but we like the sandy soil better.

That article is interesting, never thought much about how many shoots to leave, getting rid of the short ones, etc. Also, if you just want 40 pounds of peaches on a 3-4 yr tree, that's not thinning 8" apart, more like counting how many to leave.

I think I'll start pruning now, despite what they say about waiting till February. My rule is don't cut more that 1/3 of tree at one time, never have pruned new trees very much until they get established.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 11:02AM
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gator_rider2(z8 Ga.)

Any big cuts need prune and seal paste applied soon as cut made. Peaches ooze bad in warm weather. Yes back in Ga. my nephew taking care homestead out there. When I was there all planting need be on high bed garden and fruit soil would get very heavy with water a peach tree die because wet roots over winter are heavy rain in summer last cold snap seed in young peach die rot as peach grows.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 10:59AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

I'll offer some comments on this thread.

I agree with most of what Gator mentioned except the pruning seal. At times I've pruned peach trees with limbs large enough to need a chain saw and haven't used pruning seal on the cuts. Big cuts heal slowly but do fine without any pruning seal.

Agree that raised beds/berms are essential for peaches in areas with poorly drained soils that receive lots of rain.

Eskota, I too butcher my peach trees. It's not at all uncommon for me to remove 50% of the wood in a year, over a couple of prunings. This year was different with the drought. Mature trees didn't put on near the wood, so there was a lot less to remove. New trees still put on a lot of growth. Yesterday I pruned well over 50% off some new trees that hadn't been pruned this summer. I was selecting scaffolds, so I had to prune off a lot of wood.

I used to select four scaffolds but have decided to start selecting three. Four scaffolds crowds the tree a little too much as it gets mature.

I prefer to do any major pruning of peaches at least twice a year. Once in the summer to allow sunlight to penetrate the canopy and once sometime in the dormant season before bloom.

Although there are a million ways of doing it, I would not prune young trees too often. Some growth in the center of the tree will force lower shoots to grow more laterally. However to much growth in the center will shade out lower growth. So there's sort of a happy medium of center growth to allow for the shaping of a new tree. Pruning a couple times during the year seems to be about right for me.

Eskota, I know a lot of people do it, but I don't thin to 8". I allow more like 12" between fruitlets. In a normal year I get lots of 3" peaches thinning to 12". I'm referring to thinning at thumbnail size (or smaller) so thinning to 12" means the peaches will have about 9" of space in between them at harvest (assuming a 3" peach).

Waterislife, I'm not sure what to do suggest with your peach tree. Normally I start scaffolds much lower. It's also going to be a challenge to get a good lateral spread on a tree close to the house. Perhaps you could try growing more a Christmas tree shape (but still not allowing it to get too tall) since your limited in lateral area.

Below is a link of a before and after pruning picture of one of my peach trees.

Here is a link that might be useful: Help me understand summer pruning of peach trees

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 9:58AM
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eskota

Good to hear from you, Olpea. That's an excellent thread for learning how to prune peaches year-round. The U of Florida picture you linked shows trees just like in the commercial orchards here.

Interesting about the tree wound dressing discussion. I remember that GR once talked about painting trunks with latex paint mixed with Bug Juice, to control borers. Would that help heal pruning wounds as well? I ask because I just "pruned" off a scaffold branch on one of my peach trees by dropping a big dead oak tree too close. It ripped the entire branch off and left a hole nearly halfway through the trunk. Is it best to do nothing, let the tree heal itself?

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 1:43PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

Hi Eskota,

Pruning sealer is something that Gator and I disagree on. As has been mentioned, Linda Chalker-Scott is not the end-all authority for horticulture, but at least her conclusions are scientifically based. Below is a link of what she has to say regarding pruning sealer.

I do think Bug Juice could have a small slight residual benefit if you are concerned about borers colonizing a pruning wound. Not that there is anything particularly special about Bug Juice (i.e. Deltamethrin) vs. other pyrethroids, but any broad spectrum insecticide will tend to slow borers down.

I think there could be some advantage to treating large wounds with a strong copper solution. The reason is that large wounds can take many years to heal over. If the wound is large enough the wood in the center of wound can rot before the wound calluses over completely. If that happens, it will leave a hole that could trap water in the hole and slow callusing even more. Copper is decidedly different than asphalt or caulk type products that are routinely sold for wound dressings. Copper will not seal in moisture.

I will also point out that my comments regarding copper are not based upon scientific testing. They are based only on deduction and some experience. Deductively, copper has fairly good broad spectrum fungicide activity. Copper is also one of the preservatives of treated lumber. And again copper will not seal in moisture as other wound dressings can.

I first learned of this idea from an arborist who posted on a different forum. He claimed to have used this treatment with good success. My experience is also anecdotal. I've tried it on one very large wound. I treated the wound a couple times in the last three years and haven't seen any rotting of the core wood yet. The wound continues to close up. It was probably the largest wound I've made (about 6"). I've made several smaller wounds 4" or less and haven't put any copper on them and they've healed up themselves. I do try to spray big wounds when I spray the fruit for insects and disease. Generally I have an insecticide and fungicide in the tank mix, so the wounds get attention of a sort.

I try not to let unwanted limbs get so far ahead of me that I have to use a chain saw. I'm getting better and for the last few years I've only made large wounds where I let central leader trees (like pears) get too tall and am bringing them down slowly.

Here is a link that might be useful: Linda Scott - Wound dressings

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 7:57PM
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ASnyder0914

I was just hoping someone could help me with my dwarf peach tree. I am not sure what I need to cut off and not. .

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 3:50PM
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