Controlling size, pruning, and maintaining fruiting wood



15,000 pounds of peaches is a lot of peaches! I would love to get to that point.

I’m on a conventional spacing (18X20) on my peaches and I’m not sold on the advantage of high density peaches on a normal rootstock at this time. At least not for my area

I drank the Cornell Kool-Aid, so my apples are high density (about 800 tree/acre). Due to my lack of experience and some bad luck, I spent a lot of money on trellis and trees and so far I have not realized the expected early yield of this system. The nursery that grew the trees is doing a lot better than I am! They are selling trees like crazy and can not keep up with demand. For a new grower like myself, semi dwarf trees may have been a better choice. I have seen the 1000 bu/acre yield frequently used for high density apples… If I can get half that production, I can pay for the rather extreme investment I made in the Apple orchard, but so far its not working as expected.



I try to keep my peach trees at 8’. I know that’s not as majestic as a 14 footer. But for my eye, they can still look pretty cool because they are very spreading.


There’s a relatively new grower about 30 mi. from me and he put in a high density apple orchard like you mentioned. It’s now working really well for him. He does have to irrigate, and trellis the trees of course, but he gets good production. I’m sure your orchard will come around and you’ll be in 50,000 lbs./acre club (i.e. 1000 bu/ac).

If you want to see some pics of his trellised apples, here is his Facebook page. He has peaches and blackberries too. Super nice guy.

I’ve heard of 1000 bu/ac peaches too, but it’s not for me. My peaches at the farm are about like yours with a little more space between the rows (18X25). I did 18 foot within the row spacing because that’s plenty of room, as you don’t have any equipment in between the trees within the rows. I spaced the rows 25’ because my trees at the house would have a 20’ spread if I let them. That only leaves 5’ to drive a tractor down the rows, so I figure I’ll still have to prune laterals a bit to keep from hitting them with the tractor, as the trees age.

Most people around here space rows about 20’ apart like you.


Got it.



Alan, 12 foot spacing doesn’t seem very close at all to me. Was that a typo?


Mr. Clint, no, it wasn’t and 12’ spacing in the humid region where I am is not enough for peaches trained to open center on seedling rootstock or apples on M7 or more vigorous rootstocks.

Standard commercial spacing is 12-14’ - in rows with 20’ spacing between rows, I’m talking about 12-by12 as being too close.

Of course certain apple varieties can be maintained that close, but not the vigorous ones.

You don’t get rain during most of the growing season and have a stronger sun so you can plant closer if you want. Here it creates a situation where the trees are excessively vegetative from pruning them to keep them close, even with summer pruning. Fruit yield and quality ends up suffering.

We’ve been over this in the past, and I know the you are evangelical about BYOC, but it is not something that people do much in the humid regions although if you used all dwarfing rootsocks I’m sure you could make it work reasonably well, but I doubt peaches and nectarines would live here very long on St. Julien.


Yes, I have a completely different point of reference. Just wanted to make sure I was reading it right.



Thank you for the link to Sunflower Orchards. Lots of good pictures of the orchard on the Facebook page.

He also has some Blackberry on a shift trellis



He loves the way that works. It is pretty amazing the way the berries grow on one side. Very easy picking.


As many of you already know, I have most of my trees in various super-close arrangements in my humid climate. I have various different schemes I use but would agree none of them are the standard open center shape with the 45 degree angles. Mainly I have fewer scaffolds, often they are Y-shaped with only two scaffolds. Also I can’t have 45 degree scaffolds heading out too far, they may be 45 degrees for a bit but not much. I need to do a lot of limb tying on pome fruits, otherwise they have a hard time settling down into fruit production. At some point I should take some pictures of some trees and try to explain my pruning philosophy on each tree.




If you could do that it would be very helpful


Yes, it would be helpful. I have no plans of doing exactly what you’re doing. My spacing is in between you guys at 8 feet. But in situations, the techniques could really be helpful and still useful at my spacing, say for better fruit production. I know little about pomes and need to educate myself from the posts here before I buy any. Which sadly is no time soon. All the same, the info would be welcome by me.


Scott, the problem in assessing the methods and comparing benefits and liabilities is you’ve always grown your trees close and I’ve pretty much always done wider spacing. When I put two peaches together as one they’ve tended to fall away from each other because I didn’t want crossing branches- I trained the trees to grow away from each other. One tree can eventually fall over as a result.

In sites I manage, the best fruits (color and brix) consistently come from trees not being shaded by nearby trees. If you can keep your trees fruitful and as open as they’d be with wider spacing with the important leaves receiving equal sun I can see how it would work, but I’ve never quite understood the advantage if you are good at grafting anyway.

What is the advantage?


One of the biggest advantages for me has been the redundancy - if one tree goes you don’t have to wait a long time, either plant a new little one or let a neighbor take over the space. Since I have had a lot of borer problems the redundancy has been very helpful.

I think its also a bit easier to keep the fruiting plane low, compared to a big tree those big scaffolds already start out far from each other when they are different trees coming out of the ground. Imagine taking one of those big 20’ trees and chopping off the lower 3’.

The main disadvantage is its very possible to get overcrowding. Overall I don’t think its any easier or harder to prune, just that its different and there are no good guides on pruning close plantings for east coast growers. The California BYOC methods don’t work super well in the east, thats what I started with.




“At some point I should take some pictures of some trees and try to explain my pruning philosophy on each tree.”.

I know you are very busy but I look forward to it. I planted my trees close ( average 7-8 ft from one tree to the next) due to space limitation. Love to see your trees and learn how you prune and any techniques you have used.

Thanks in advance.


Scott, I suspect you wouldn’t be losing so many trees to borers if they were allowed full space growing at full vigor. It is very rare for me to lose any of the trees I manage to borers, even those that I only see once a year and aren’t even sprayed with anything. They may be slowed by borer injury but it seems that peach trees growing at full vigor are not completely girdled easily. But who knows? Different regions, different results.

As far as keeping the fruiting plane low, I don’t understand. I don’t try to keep it low because I need to keep bearing branches above deer and such, but what do you mean chopping off the lower 3’? I completely missed your point on that paragraph.

It is certainly a more natural approach to allow the trees a reasonable amount of space. I’m sure my trees would despise me if I made them grow in such claustrophobic conditions- they’d feel like factory workers!


What amazes me is the massive difference between my trees and the standard East coast tree. It doesn’t seem like mine would be able to even keep their leaves much less put out full size fruit. I’m thinking I can keep peach on Lovell easily in 2ft by 6ft and have a nice walkway in between. I’m doing that in my greenhouse by only wetting about 1/3 of soil volume and applying about 18 inches water with 300 day growing season.

I think Eastern growers could keep trees my size in a pot. Potting does reduce fruit size for me so maybe my new system will as well. Frank in WI has posted nice fruit from potted trees and stated he has few disease issues.


Alan, here the borers are woking nearly year-round so I expect things are a lot worse. Between October and January I find new chaff coming out meaning they have been boring away.

Re: the fruiting plane, if you have four trees each 4’ apart then thinking of those four trees as one big tree, its like you took a full-size tree and buried its lower 3’ - the scaffolds are already apart at ground level. I should add that given all the deer problems I have had I ended up raising my fruiting plane so for me this is not so helpful anymore. It was before the deer showed up, though.

Trees at 20’ and trees at 4’ are all factory workers to me, we are butchering much of their wood out each winter, we have them lined up like robots, we yank off nearly all their fruits.



Scott, I was kidding about the factory worker part. My trees don’t actually talk to me. They don’t think I’m cool enough. Can’t blame them.

I should think you’d be curious if tight spacing might also contribute to the borer problem. Some of the peaches I manage are right on the Hudson River where 0 degrees is a test winter low. Seems just as likely to be a tight spacing problem as a borer on steroids problem to me.

It is quite logical that if a trunk is allowed to grow faster with more vigor it has a better chance of outgrowing the borer damage. It would also explain why young and older trees are more vulnerable, an often commented on tendency in the literature on peach tree borers.


Alan, in my orchard the borer problem has been on the young trees where I did not control the borers well at all, and they never recovered. None of the trees that got through that period without a major hit are having problems. That said, I would agree that thicker bark should give better protection so larger spacing should help.

BTW besides borers there are many other things that kill roots, and with close planting you already have the replacement tree growing next door.



Scott, I can see the advantage where space is an issue. Most of my clients have a lot of land and I have enough for a few cavities between mature trees.

I actually plant trees a bit close for this reason and still plant two trees to a hole in spite of the problems they may cause me if I end up keeping both varieties. What I will do in the future is train them to 2 scaffolds each with one of the scaffolds growing straight out past the other tree so they aren’t lopsided with all the weight on one side.

Many of the varieties I want to try are patented, particularly with stone fruit so I start with trees too close and then cull the ones I don’t love.

I just don’t maintain them as closely planted trees once they are mature. I find that keeping closely spaced trees productive of highest quality fruit becomes increasingly difficult as they mature. When it gets to this point something must go.