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Pruning Peach Trees

posted Feb 21, 2011, 8:57 AM by Bob Whitney   [ updated Feb 21, 2011, 10:18 AM ]
The main goals of pruning are to maintain tree form to an open center which facilitates light penetration and air circulation, and to partially control crop size by selectively thinning out fruiting wood. Peach trees bear fruit only on one year old wood. Dormant pruning is an invigorating action which results in a healthy canopy to produce the current season's crop and allow for ample production potential for the following year. Another pruning objective is to lower the fruiting zone to a height which can be hand-harvested from the ground. Topping trees at 7 -8 feet usually accomplishes this objective because the weight of the crop will bring limbs down where the fruit can be easily reached. Additional objectives of pruning are to remove dead or diseased shoots, rootstock suckers, and vegetative water sprouts from the center of the tree. When thinning out fruiting wood, remove old gray-colored, slow growing shoots which are not fruitful and leave one-year-old, red, 18 - 24 inch bearing shoots.



Four Steps to Prune a Mature Peach Tree
1. Remove all hanger shoots, rootstock suckers, and water sprouts in the lower three feet of the tree. This removal of lower growth clears a path for herbicide applications and allows for air circulation.

2. Remove all shoots above seven feet in height other than red 18 - 24 inch fruiting shoots. Cuts need to be at selected points where the scaffold and sub-scaffold limbs extend upward at a 45 - 50-degree angle. Cuts which leave limbs sideways at a 90-degree angle should be avoided.


3. Remove all vigorous shoots which grow toward the inside of the tree.


4. Remove all old gray wood in the three to seven foot production zone.
Always remove bull shoots in the middle of the trees any time they develop. Summer pruning immediately after harvest can help reduce bull shoots in the top of the tree.


Peach pruning normally removes 40 percent of the tree each winter. This reduces the number of fruit on the tree and stimulates strong growth of fruiting wood each year. Proper pruning is one of the keys to a long peach tree life.


Pruning paint is not needed. Wear gloves, long sleeves, eye protection, and a cap which covers the ears to prevent injury.


Late-spring frost is the single greatest factor in Texas peach production, and pruning early in the year removes much of the flower bud crop that constitutes "insurance" against crop loss. The peach tree will bloom soon after pruning when chilling is satisfied and warm weather follows. Growers with only a few trees can wait until "pink bud" to prune while larger growers traditionally prune as late in the spring as they can while still allowing for enough time to complete the task. Mature peach trees often take 20 to 30 minutes to prune properly.