Heavy pruning Peach

I’ve generally read guidance that peach gets pruned heaviest, up to 50% of growth. Which is good in my case but wanted to check in, as my property is small enough that I have only one peach and want it to work out…

Planted a multibudded tree last winter. Had bought it the winter before but kept it in a container since I had contractors working on the house and didn’t trust them to take care.

This last growing season when it was in ground it grew like a monster and got away from me (and I’m just learning what to do…). I summer pruned for height and thinned but too early/too little obviously.

Tree was ~4 ft coming out of dormancy and is now ~11 or 12 ft. From the 50% advice, I am thinking to cut to an outward facing branch at around 6ft. What do you all think?

Last Spring

Two weeks ago (Dec 19, 2020, yes, it refuses to fully go dormant!!)

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Wow, in that last pic I see some nice scaffold branches. Can you pick out 3 or 4 evenly distributed around the tree? You may need to spread them more to get an open center. Regardless, I dont think you want to cut out more than 30% in one year.

I’ll get a better picture during the day in 2021 :slight_smile: Yes, there was some good branching for laterals spaced around the trunk (though not spaced super well vertically).

Performing a heading cut for the scaffolds at 6 or 7 foot would be >1 inch diameter, some closer to 1.5-2 inches.

Heres my 2 cents: I woulnt give it a 50% haircut or it will likely give lost of str8 up vegetative growth. Pick/tie down your main scaffolds then thin out extras/wood growing straight up/into middle of tree or where its too crowded. Remember peach fruits form near the ends of last years growth so if you cut them all back youll likely have very little fruit. As the tree get older youll need to prune it more to keep getting new 1st year renewal/fruiting wood. Try to keep up on it through the growing season (ie pinch off buds/shoots in bad places as you walk by/check out your tree

It is hard to prune off too many buds on a peach tree as there are so many. But I guess you could do it if every limb got severely shortened.

What I do with trees like that is remove nearly all the stuff in the center to start with. Then thin out the 1/2”-1” branches too close to each other. Finally the smaller stuff gets thinned and headed. As long as you don’t head hard every short branch you will have plenty of buds.

Your tree might have one branch right up the middle, hard to tell from the picture. For such a tree it might be better to not train it as a vase (the pruning method where limbs in the center are removed - what I was describing above).

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It should be OK for open center. No strong single vertical leader, the picture attached to this reply is me holding my phone/camera right over the trunk and looking down. It was purchased as a multi-graft tree and one of the grafted varieties is at nearly 90deg from the trunk, so that is a little worrying but it’s super vigorous. There is another variety that’s at nearly vertical but I clipped it after planting and it has 3 “scaffolds”, you can see in the left side of the image. I am thinking I’ll graft over the top/weakest one with a scion this spring.

On the aforementioned variety coming from the trunk at 90deg, there are 1 or 2 vigorous vertical branches that are kind of right on top of what you might call the “scaffold” branches so I plan to cut those out.

The main concern I think I have is the vertical growth. It’s kind of good the tree isn’t spreading purely horizontal because the spot isn’t huge (I don’t have any big spots!), but at the same time I don’t want to have fruiting migrate up the tree and way out of reach since this is intended to be fairly accessible to me and my kids. Since I’ve read that Peach can lose the ability to fruit/bud out with too much shading, I feel like I want to go more drastic now and try to prevent that as much as possible. Scott, mainly in line with your advice, I’ll give it a shot and report back! Do you think it OK to head the thicker caliper stuff (“scaffolds” and secondary “scaffolds”) back by ~1/2 their growth?

Congrats on the healthy peach tree.

It can be a bit hard to advise, but Scott gave you some good advice, imo.

I generally just keep mature peach trees pruned at the level I don’t want to reach past. Pretty much, if we can’t reach it from the ground, we prune it. So I think you’ll be OK to prune your scaffolds at 1/2 the length they are now.

It will obviously decrease your harvest vs. not pruning aggressively, but you need to get that tree in shape, if you are going to try to keep it at a pedestrian height.

I have posted several before and after pics of pruning we do. But this is the only one I could find quickly.

I don’t know if you’ve watched the vids of Mike Parker from NCSU, but he has 3 of them for different staged peach trees. They are pretty good. Here is pruning for a new peach tree.

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Thanks @Olpea and @scottfsmith. I am not super concerned with reducing fruit as much this coming season since it’ll be the first season to have any at all, and we’ll be happy with what we get. Will take an of your advice and watch the videos.

If I remember I’ll report back on what it’s pruned to and the results throughout the season! Thanks again

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My Mom would gasp in horror (she’s a let a plant do its thing kind of person). Removed a couple more vertical sprouts and downward/inward growing fruiting shoots)

Seems like I’ll still be able to have a fair few fruit considering… let a few branches stay for now perhaps for fruit this season that i won’t want to stay as permanent scaffolds (summer post-harvest cut shown in red). Hopefully leaving those on fulfills two goals: more fruit this year & taking some energy away from vigorous/vertical growth

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Spurious,

That’s probably about how I would have pruned it. Here is another before and after pruning pic from another thread I posted last March. The tree I pruned looks about the same size as yours.

One thing you’ll notice with the tree I pruned is that the 3 scaffolds don’t originate at the same height on the trunk. They are all separated vertically by a few inches. That’s something you’ll want to try to do when selecting scaffolds on your next peach tree. :grin:

Because of the limitations with your fence and other trees close by, you will have to control the spread of your peach tree. This will require even more pruning, but it can be done.

If you haven’t had a chance to read about it you might search BYOC (Back Yard Orchard Culture) on the forum. There are a lot of topics where it’s discussed how to keep trees pruned in restricted spaces.

scottfsmith successfully keeps his trees in pretty enclosed spaces. If you haven’t seen this thread, there are some great pics of his orchard.

Here’s some more pics in the summertime when fruit is on trees.

Lastly spurious, you’ll want to make sure not to use any fertilizers with a high percent of N, to try to keep the vigor lower.

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If interested, here is a video of some spring pruning I did last March. I’ve intended to post it on the forum before, but never got around to it. It’s not as good as the videos from NCSU (Mike Parker) but perhaps you can glean something from it. I made it for customers whom I sold trees to.

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Mark,
That was brutal :wink: I’ve watched many, many peach pruning videos and understand the reason and the concept.

Your video was great. Thank you. While watching your video, I could predict which branches you would prune off with at least 80% accuracy. Admittedly, knowing is one thing, doing is another!!! It’s emotionally difficult to actually prune off those many branches with flowers off !!!

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Yea… and there will be more!! Annoying thing is I couldn’t have really done much about that. The multi-bud tree I got from Bay Laurel had set me up without much room to adjust. It came with three stubs of different varieties. The lower vertically of the three never pushed any shoots after 1.5 years so I cut it off and lost that variety. The other two were vertically very close to each other.

The two left branches are one and the big fat almost horizontal one coming off the trunk on the right of the image is the other. I’d also rather have had a shorter trunk but I guess I’ll have to start from rootstock myself for the next tree!

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@spurious are those low chill peaches? Do you know what rootstock? It’s amazing how much the trunk thickened in one season.

@ammoun Yes, it’s low chill, the Pride series multi-bud from Dave Wilson Nursery. It’s on Nemaguard. It was supposed to be 4 varieties when I bought it, Bay Laurel gave me a discount as they said most of the 4N1s that year were not shipping “Due to considerable breakage this season”. So it came as a 3N1 but one variety did not leaf out. The two that are left should be May Pride and August Pride (we’ll see this year :grinning: based on ripening time).

While I’ve read/heard peach is more vigorous than many, it also amazes me how much so.

My Flavor King on citation is a puny thing (small space so good but could be slightly more vigorous). My Weeping Santa Rosa has also been pretty vigorous on Myrobalan 29C but still not as much as the peach and the peach was in the ground 2 years later (1 year of those it was potted).

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I appreciate the video! Can you mention anything about the pruner you are using?

Thanks!

I use a brand of pruners called Kamakaze. Battery operated pruners are becoming much more common. I know Scott Smith also uses battery operated pruners. I don’t know if anyone else on the forum is using them.

I just read an article in American Fruit Grower from Jon Clements (UMASS apple specialist). At the end of the article he wrote, “Oh, and one more thing. Buy yourself a battery-operated, hand-held electric pruner and ditch the loppers. It’s nearly life changing.”

Here is the article on the internet:

I think that’s true. More and more orchardists (large and small) are discovering battery operated pruners. For commercial growers, it’s one of the cheapest ways to significantly reduce labor and fatigue, currently available. For backyard growers, prices are starting to come down to make them more affordable.

The ones I use are rather expensive. Volpi sold them to me at dealer’s cost. The pruner I held in the video above cost about $1200 including shipping when I bought it a couple years ago. I bought an identical one this spring, and I think that one was about $1500.

It’s about mid range for these types of pruners. An Infaco pruner cost about $2500 a couple years ago.

I chose Kamikaze because they were the only ones I could find which had the length of pruner I wanted. It’s pretty sturdily built and will cut anything which will fit in the jaws.

They make a heavier duty hand held model (with no pole extension) which I think is about the same price. The jaws open much larger on it. It will cut some pretty big shoots. It will get through 2" diameter peach wood. When we prune I generally use that one, and my orchard hand will use a stubby pole pruner, like the one in the video. That way we rarely have to pull a saw out to saw through big wood.

The only drawbacks to them is of course the initial price (which is easily made back in one season in labor savings) and the risk of cutting one’s fingers off. That’s another reason I like the pole pruner. Much harder to chop one’s fingers off. That’s also why I have my orchard hand use the pole pruner only.

For a considerable lesser investment, manufacturers are now coming out with battery operated pruners which look like a cordless drill. Of course they are going to be a little heavier in your hand than the models where the battery fits on your back in a harness (like in the vid). But for anyone not pruning a lot of trees, I bet they might work pretty good to relieve a lot of hand stress. Especially if you typically try to cut 1/2" or bigger wood with hand pruners, as we all sometimes do because that’s what we have in our hands.

If you are interested in the Kamikaze products, PM me and I’ll try to get you in contact with the company.

Here is a link about the pruners I use. This one is 100 cm long. The one’s I have are 80 cm, called a KV80.

Here’s a random link to the cordless drill type pruners I mentioned above for less than $300. I don’t know anything about them, except that the reviews seem mostly good.

https://www.amazon.com/KOMOK-Professional-Cordless-Electric-Rechargeable/dp/B07MC46WJ5/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=battery+pruner&qid=1610288438&sr=8-3

I’d be careful getting really cheap electric pruners. I think a person might find electric pruners too cheaply made will be worse than regular manual pruners, and probably end with a lot of frustration.

All kinds of manufacturers are coming out with battery operated pruners. I was at an orchard trade show a couple years ago and there were all kinds of battery operated pruners on display. Sthil makes one which I bet is very good. Felco also makes a battery pruner. I think they are pretty expensive, in the $2K range.

I know Scott uses a Zenport battery operated pruner. Those are about $1K and considered commercial class. The reviews on Amazon seem pretty good. Maybe @scottfsmith will chime in to tell how well he likes his.

Like I say, I think it’s likely prices will come down. It shouldn’t cost that much to make them, imo. I think they are so expensive because they are still considered a very specialized tool. Once more orchardists start using them, and they become more mainstream, I expect mass production to cheapen the manufacturing cost considerably.

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Thanks so much for all the detail!!

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@Olpea and others! I’ve gotten energy from this thread, and am feeling good about the upcoming seasons. I do plan to maintain height and make other corrections during our long growing season, and got me searching. I came across this interesting article but it doesn’t seem to be a discussion elsewhere that I could find. Given my understanding of 1-year old wood being fruiting wood, I had just planned to make thinning cuts of the fruited wood and leave the new shoots, but not necessarily leave “stubs”. Do you do this (the article’s recommendation)? If not, how do you renew fruiting wood each year after the scaffolds have been shaped as you want?

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We use the technique mentioned to try to avoid blind wood along the scaffolds. We’ve found some varieties are more prone to form blind wood, whereas others are more willing to form adventitious buds. So it sort of depends on the variety how many “hat racks” you decide to leave on the scaffold

Obviously one has to be more careful pruning all the wood off the scaffold the older the tree gets.

As trees get mature, and fully fill their allotted space, we’ve noticed new wood close to the trunk doesn’t seem to make very good peaches, so we don’t leave much there.

Generally it’s a bit of a tightrope balancing act when we look at each tree to determine how much wood we need to remove. We’ve removed too much wood (and not left enough stubs) and ended up with lots of blind wood, particularly on varieties prone to blind wood like Glenglo, Earlystar, etc. We’ve left too much wood/stubs on varieties which like to throw lots of new shoots and ended up costing ourselves lots more time because the trees become a mess of choked foliage.

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