Canker surgery

So I’ve been reading all the past threads about peach canker and decided what I have is canker. As the threads suggested I’m thinking about removing the area suffering from canker. But it seems like this is done in the summer. My question is can I remove what I think is canker (see pictures) from dormant trees? Or does the tree have to be actively growing for it to heal? The reason I don’t want to wait till summer to remove these is I don’t want it to spread to the Apple tree and grape vine.
My second question is can I graft on to a tree that is recovering from canker? Or will it be too much stress? This tree seems to have canker on the main trunk, does that mean it’s doomed?

I’m telling you, fruit growing is not easy!

Kinda looks like you’ve got borers too (I’m noting the small holes with sap leaking). You’re gonna have to cut off a lot of bark – which is a scary proposition. Some of the sites are almost burr-like, which will probably be some tough whittling. Bad times for pruning peaches are wet and warmer conditions in fall and late winter, that is when the cytospora spores are active. Summer is best.

Sorry to say, your tree looks really unhealthy. If it were my tree, I would hack (axe) it immediately. It seems to be infected in too many places.

I was afraid of that :disappointed:
What if I cut it down to about a foot above the soil line try to graft on to it? Would it work?

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I have a bit different opinion, some of my peach trees have trunks looking far worse but the shoots and fruit have been doing fine for quite a few years now. Peaches are more tolerant of canker than cherries. But its your call.

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I was just wondering how painting the trunk with neem oil as Scott did in another post would work out. You don’t have much to lose if it doesn’t work.

Neem, the way Scott uses it, is to protect against borers.

The tree the OP has is also suffering from canker. Don’t think neem can fix a canker issue. Making sure the tree is healthy would help it recover from canker.

If there is borer in there, kill it first and ask question later :grinning:


I don’t have a large orchard to keep an eye on. Just couple more trees. So keeping an eye on those is doable. Maybe I should try to salvage this by removing the canker?
I don’t want to loose this tree. At the same time I don’t want diseases around.

Hmm peach borer… Did not see that coming. Entire time I was going around thinking “oh I don’t have bugs, just diseases”.


It’s always a little hard to tell from pictures, which is probably why there are so many diagnoses on this thread, but I’m not sure I see borer evidence.

I see the sap spots, but don’t see any on the lower part of the trunk. The major peach tree borer attacks the lower part of the trunk, or the roots. There is a lesser peach tree borer (and another borer) which attacks higher parts of the tree, but that borer is much less common in the NE, and the borer generally attacks wounds and crotch angles of peach trees, not the smooth bark. I think the “bleeding” spots I see are simply spots where the bark is dying underneath.

Your tree does have canker, but like Scott, I have trees which are worse than yours. It’s more problematic that your tree has so much dead bark and lacks vigor. It can be hard for the tree to heal when there is a lot of dead cambium tissue. Even though the bark looks sound from the outside, it can be dead underneath and show up the next growing season.

Nevertheless, sometimes peach trees can recover to some extent from lots of dead bark, or at least continue to produce for many years.

I would definitely avoid trying to cut out canker on this particular tree, unless you are going to try to remove dead limbs. The tree looks very weak to me, and trying to remove places of bark might do it in. Instead, I would try to improve the vigor of this tree.

Here are some things to try early next spring.

Start by removing a larger weed free area underneath the tree. I recommend at least a 6’ radius of weed sod free area for your tree. You could do this by hand with a hoe, or a careful application of Roundup (careful not to get any on the trunk or foliage of the tree) or using a light organic mulch. Peach roots don’t compete well with sod, unless the trees are larger and healthy.

Secondly, I would apply some nitrogen fertilizer to get the tree growing well. Well growing peach trees are much more capable of fighting off canker (or living with it) and heal larger areas of dead bark. A generous amount of N fertilizer will result in substantial new growth. You can overdo it with fertilizer, so you might check back with the forum when you purchase the fertilizer, to get some recommendations on how much to apply of your specific fertilizer.

Lastly, I see some spots on your new shoots, these are probably either scab lesions, or bac. spot lesions (probably scab). You might consider spraying a little captan early in the growing season to control that. But, by far the more important things would be to remove the sod around the base of the tree and apply some fertilizer.

Lastly, I see a place where a branch is crossing another and rubbing. You might cut that out so there is no rubbing, but I would wait till spring because the tree is so weak. As Gsims mentions, fungal peach canker is most active in the fall or winter, which is another reason not to prune your tree right now.


Thanks for the detailed reply. This means so much to people like me and to others who are short on experience with these problems.


Thank you. I will happily follow those steps and see if the tree starts to recover enough to give us fruits. Hopefully it’s a fighter. Last thing I want to do is to get rid of this tree. This is the first fruit tree we ever planted.

Should I mulch around the tree using fall leaves? I got plenty of those. If I put a thick layer on, it’ll break down and compost together with the sod. Or is it going to just create a breeding place for more nasties?


I’m generally a fan of mulch for weed control. What I couldn’t tell from the pictures was how heavy your soil is, how well the location drains, and how close the water table is. Peach trees need really good drainage to perform well.

I mentioned a light coating of mulch because if your site doesn’t drain well, putting a heavy coat of mulch on will only hold that much more water and stress the tree even more. Too much water on the roots will stress a peach tree and can cause it to show some of the symptoms yours seems to be showing, but so can the other things I mentioned above.

So, if you are certain your soil drains really well, then you could put a thick layer of mulch on (the leaves will pack down and rot, as you suggest) but if you are uncertain of the drainage I’d go with just a light layer of mulch.

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I think our soil holds water well. Not too quick to drain. But the tree is on a slightly sloped spot. So water doesn’t collect there. And I have no idea about the water table. So I think just to be on the safe side I’ll go with a thin layer of leaves.

I appreciate all your feedbacks! Wish me luck :sunglasses:


When pruning you would want to prune this tree last and disinfect the shears. Canker can be spread from tree to tree from the shearers. You should disinfect with 10% bleach solution for 5 minutes. Make sure and oil the shearers after cutting to keep from rusting. I use Lysol spray but I have to remember to allow the 5 minutes to kill the bacteria. Usually I will cut with one hand pruner and have the other one sprayed down with the Lysol spray. By the time I am through the other pruner should be disinfected and ready to prune.

Thank you. Will definitely do that. Don’t want this to get worse than this .