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Regular peach tree pruning results in higher yields, better quality fruit, and easier harvests. Pruning also results in healthier trees that produce earlier and live longer. The best peach tree pruning tips include pruning during the right seasons as well as choosing the right cuts and tools. Additional tips include working toward an open-center tree and learning proper wound dressing to prevent disease or other complications.
The reason behind peach tree pruning is primarily to develop a strong framework on which to support heavy fruit crops. An open-center tree, also called an open canopy, means fruiting wood forms a wreath or vase-like shape around the trunk. Through careful pruning, an open center or open canopy provides a heavy-duty framework while simultaneously exposing the center of the tree to more sunlight. Peach trees with such open frameworks stay shorter and grow wider for easier harvesting and maintenance.
Waiting for the ideal time of year reduces the risk that peach tree pruning practices will disrupt or inhibit fruit production. Major pruning should be done annually, usually after February. A dormant tree better heals from pruning wounds, provided there is no risk of additional frost or exceptionally cold weather. Young to middle-aged trees benefit from an additional pruning in early summer to remove water sprouts and low branches. Water sprouts are new-growth branches that extend straight up from the top of an established branch.
Understanding the different peach tree pruning cuts is as important as developing a strong framework and properly timing annual or seasonal pruning. The various cuts include collar cuts, heading, bench cuts, and thinning. Collar cuts are used to remove limbs over an inch in diameter and leave a small amount of limb extending beyond the trunk for better healing. Heading cuts remove the ends of limbs and branches to encourage more growth and additional branching. Bench cuts and thinning cuts are types of heading cuts, with thinning cuts meant to stop new growth and bench cuts meant to encourage spreading.
Different cuts require different tools and wound dressings. The choices available for tools used in peach tree pruning are extensive. Any tool used should be sharp to prevent unintentional damage and be tailored to the specific type of cut being performed. For example, a chainsaw might be appropriate for collar cuts, but not bench cuts or thinning. Likewise, after cuts over 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter are made, proper attention to wound dressing is important. Many commercially available dressings are available, but care should be taken to apply thin coatings and monitor regularly for cracks that can breed cankers, microorganisms, and other threats.
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