Controlling size, pruning, and maintaining fruiting wood

Reading other posts about trees not flowering. Excess pruning came up as a possible culprit. I have read that you should remove about 1/3 of new wood.
Not sure the best approach to young trees? Then with BYOC you want to maintain a small size, but thinking about it, how do you renew wood if you keep hacking it off to say keep it at 8 feet? Will not you soon be cutting off all new wood?
Reading MSU’s and OSU’s process of pruning the KGB method, wood is renewed constantly. But what about other stone fruit? How is size maintained and also new wood for fruiting? Any insight appreciated.


Im by far NOT the best source for info but the way I understand is the old wood fruiting spurs on stone fruit produce year after year so removing new vigorous wood doesnt remove that. Apples Im still learning the best way to prune those BYOC style to not remove the fruiting wood. I need some education on that. So ill be watching this closely.

I figured I would never waste my time growing cherries unless I can completely cage them from the birds. Lately I’ve been thinking about trying the spanish bush or KGB approach to keep them low to the ground. Then I can easily put up a structure for complete netting/fencing.

If I understand correctly, the spanish bush approach is to maintain spurs on lateral growth (from leaders) and the KGB approach is to grow spurs on leaders by remove all lateral growth. In the KGB system a small percentage of the largest leaders are cut back each year to control both height and stimulate new growth. I’m guessing the number of leaders will control the rate of vertical growth. If you don’t have proper number of leaders then vertical growth could get out of control after a couple years.

Summer pruning has been the key to success for me with BYOC, because I am pruning vegetative growth. If you do a heavy round of Winter pruning, you will remove a lot of fruiting wood on a smallish tree. The exception for me would be pomegranates, they seem to appreciate heavy Winter pruning as they fruit on new wood.


On more established trees, I think that would renew by making thinning cuts instead of heading cuts.

I went to DWS site watched the video about size control and summer prune. I can never get the math right. If I want control the tree at 8’ tall. I summer prune off all branches that are over 8 feet, a hair cut at 8 feet. . The next year, tree’s newly grown branches start at 8’ . If I do summer prune to control the tree at 8’ again, don’t I have to prune off all the current year grown branches?

IL847, yes, you see the problem. Peaches fruit on new wood (1 year old wood) so once 8 feet what do you do? Mes111 suggests thinning cuts and yes, that would have to be done for it to keep producing. Yes trees with spurs keep producing there, but not all trees have spurs. Some apples do, some don’t. So pruning is going to be different.

So for non-spur fruiting trees that fruit on new wood, it’s going to be a problem.
AJ on KGB yes you remove most lateral growth not all. I think any lateral growing outward you leave. And yes the number of leaders control vertical growth dominance. The amount of leaders depends on rootstock.
That system is very clear, and to me looks like it would work really well.
The BYOC technique is too vague on exactly how to renew wood.

Just out of curiosity I want to give the KGB system a chance, I prefer a naturally upright growing apricot variety. Goldrich
I suspect a powerful rootstock is recommended (wood is renewed constantly)
Of course the yield is probably much less but I take pleasure with it. My goal is less means more quality In addition It is merely experimental.


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I know when you espalier peaches, you use a fan shape and constantly renew fruiting would. Maybe each year thin a scaffold down to produce more fruiting wood. i have to look closer at how they renew wood in espaliered peaches.
I have a couple pruning books and both have examples. When i get a chance i will read up and see if I can figure a way to do this with BYOC style non-spur stone fruit trees.

[quote=“Drew51, post:7, topic:292”]
Peaches fruit on new wood (1 year old wood) so once 8 feet what do you do?
[/quote]The new wood for the fruit should be on laterals, so cuts to control height would have little impact on fruiting.

You will also make thinning cuts to crossed branches and to allow airflow/sunlight penetration, as well as shaping cuts to maintain balance. You really shouldn’t see pollarding at the 8’ height. There will always be new growth below the top cuts.

There has never been a shortage of fruiting wood for me. With BYOC you’re basically just working with a lower canopy, assuming you cut off your tree at knee height (or lower) after planting. In reality, I do a bit of pruning all the time, just never anything major in Winter (except for poms) unless I’ve fallen way behind. The goal is not to harvest as much as you would with a 15’ to 20’ tree.

Exactly. Well said.

When discussing pruning, you, of course, need to address one species at a time. However, one thing that is pretty universal is that the moderately vigorous annual shoots are either entirely responsible for next years crop as with peaches, or for a three year cycling in and out of bearing wood as is often done with pears and apples. Even when you keep spurs on apples and pears for longer than that, fruiting wood renewal starts with such shoots, called pencils when in the context of pomes. With apples and pears, the shoots you keep are shorter than with peach trees though.

To give you an idea about managing peaches, it is possible to maintain a peach trunk with no permanent branches at all- this is more often done with dwarf apples (in a slightly different manner), but imagining peaches managed this way illustrates a lot of the idea behind managing peach trees in general. I’ve actually trained peaches with a central leader and three permanent scaffolds where the central leader is managed the way I will describe.

You let the trunk grow to the height you want it and remove all branches that form after their second year. New shoots grow from the trunk, you thin out excessively vigorous shoots, leave others that are about 12-24" long. Let each shoot grow 2 to 4 peaches and remove the spent shoots next spring, leaving new shoots for the subsequent crop.

With peach trees with permanent branches you manage them pretty much the way I described managing the “branchless” tree. Stick to new wood that starts immediately at the scaffold (all green wood that formed the previous year) and remove all 2 year wood. Anything that grows more than a couple of feet in a season is probably excessively vigorous to use and such shoots can be removed in mid summer instead of waiting till the following spring so the wood you plan to keep gets lots of light.

You are replacing all the budded wood in the tree on a 2 year cycle.


Thanks for the info, it was helpful. I do, do winter and summer pruning. Winter pruning is needed here for a couple of reasons. Here with the cold winters it is best not to prune trees past August 1st. It stimulates new growth that may not harden off in time. It got to -16F here this winter. Often the trees do grow throughout August, so the wood needs to be checked in late winter, or early spring before bud break. You can leave plenty of new wood for fruiting. Maybe remove 1/3. Also I went out to inspect trees i see I have a lot of tip die-back. That should be removed too.
Again thanks for the info. it will be some time before i get them to 8 feet, but I want to know how it’s going to work. i have a better idea now, thanks!

In summer I will prune for size, control vigorous growth and to remove older wood.

Drew, Olpea will tell you how to maintain them at 8’, although it is essentially about starting your three scaffolds below 2’ on the trunk and pulling them with stake and string to the height you wish to maintain them- usually in a kind of martini glass shape, although olpea’s branches are closer to horizontal than that.

I use a temporary central leader so I can use spreaders to make my scaffolds near horizontal- not as a martini glass so I have enough straight trunk to set up coon and squirrel baffles (takes about 4’ of vertical, branch-free trunk for that). I’m really sorry that I’m not into taking pictures at all- I don’t know why I haven’t the patience for it.


Yeah my trees have been trained, low scaffolds, tied down. I got that part down.
Well I’m learning. You have to keep them tied down for a long time. As soon as i untied them, they shoot for the sky. Next time i will maintain the weight longer.

So glad you asked this question Drew51. I’ve been thinking about the same question exactly!

Drew, it looks like you are well on your way to a low growing peach there. With peaches it is not uncommon to simply prune to outward, sometimes lower branches to keep the trees open and low growing. Commercial growers often keep their trees low this way rather than using a trellis or tying down branches.

By the book this is accepted as a pruning management strategy for peaches but not apples. The problem with it is these cuts put a relatively large wound on top of the branch that may weaken the branch so it snaps under the weight of crop, especially when it is employed close to the trunk. It is the relative diameter of these wounds that can make them weak points on a branch- also the closer they are to the trunk the more a weak point is likely to break under the weight of fruit.

Tied or otherwise spread branches are bound to be stronger. Growers in CA used to sometimes train their peaches to a vase using those weakening cuts but every season tie a single rope around the scaffolds to support them and hold a V shape. I’m sure this works about as well as anything- there are so many ways to manage fruit trees.

When apples are pruned this way the branches take a decidedly wavy shape that I dislike- maybe for aesthetics but probably just because it rubs against how I was trained to prune and train apples.

Good timing for this tread, will be pruning my peaches in the next week or so. Alan, thank you for sharing your knowledge with us newer growers. This statement helps clarify how I need to be pruning. Most of my peaches have 4 permanent scaffolds so pruning with the idea of keeping mainly 1 year wood and getting rid of the rest simplifies what I need to do.

I found this video to be helpful as well

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Did you do any summer pruning on that peach? Or only the initial heading?

Sean that is the Spice Zee nectaplum. And it died to just above the rootstock last winter. I didn’t do any summer pruning, or if i did, I did it early. I should have but by fall i was worried so did not prune it. Twice on this tree i lost the central leader. That is all last year’s growth. I would show more photos but my computer is down till next Thursday when a new hard drive arrives. I use a small hard drive just for the operating system, my computer has 3 other drives that are fine and keep my data, but until i reinstall the OS I can’t access.
Here is another photo I had on photobucket. You can see it grew a lot in late summer. I will remove this tree if it dies back again. If it makes it, 2 of the scaffolds will be cut back for grafts and the remaining scaffold will be pruned heavy to balance. Well I will do more balancing the 2016 season. it will be out of balance for awhile.

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