We usually wait until the last minute to prune peaches, often pruning when buds are pink and just about ready to pop into bloom. Peaches are a marginal crop in New Hampshire, although on good sites in the southern part of the state, annual crops are almost the norm. Delaying pruning gives us a chance to see just how many buds have made it through the cold winter. While basic pruning principles are not compromised, we can adjust pruning to compensate for reduced or excessive bud survival.
Peaches are pruned to an open center – a stark contrast to the central leader or Christmas tree shape we strive for with most other tree fruits. Peach fruits are produced on wood that grew the previous summer and peach wood is brittle – that combination of brittle wood and fruit load at the ends of the branches makes structural strength key.
We start forming the open center structure the day we plant the tree. Head peach trees back to 24 to 30 inches at planting. Limbs arising below the heading-back cut should be cut in half to promote the development of strong, wide-angled branches and thinned to leave only the best 3 or 4. Remove any branches growing 15 inches or less from the ground.
Young peach tree in its second spring before pruning. Photo: W. Lord
Same peach tree, pruned. Photo: W. Lord
In the second year, select 3 to 4 well-developed, wide-angled lateral branches and cut off all other branches flush with the trunk. Head the 2 or 3 that you have selected back slightly where growth has exceeded 30 inches.
Bill Lord, April 28, MMXI
Posted: April 28th, 2011 under Fruit Growers Journal.