How many peaches should I let my 3-4 year old peach trees give?

I have 2 peach trees (Redhaven and Georgia Belle). Both were twigs when put in the ground 3 years ago. Both flowered last year but dropped everything. (Redhaven actually gave one small peach)

This year they are covered in peaches. The trees are way larger than I expected a 3 year peach to be and they both tried to set something like 400-600 fruit. Once they were quarter-sized, I pulled off many of them, but they are still trying to set like 150-200 fruit.

How many should I let them give? The trees are big, but are still young trees. Wasn’t expecting anything like this. I thought they might give like 20 peaches this year. But I don’t want to let them try and bear too many because they seem to not be dropping the peaches on their own. Thoughts? Thanks! I’ll post some pics below.

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Thin to one peach every 10-12 “. Your trees can handle it. You will feel that you thin out 70-80% of fruitlets. That’s good. Closer to 80% is better.

Peaches do not go biennial. But keeping too many fruit will lower fruit quality but increase chances of limb breakage.


Great advice from Tippy. Thin like crazy. Welcome to the laborious part of the hobby!


Thanks! Yes, it makes me glad I only have 2 trees. :slight_smile:

Thinning is more psychologically difficult for me than laborious.

I find it worthwhile to go in stages. Get the obvious clinkers the first go round as soon as they are easy to discern. Visit the tree for additional thinning in successive two week intervals say.

Going in stages gives you some insurance against things like intervening hail storms and freak weather too.

If it’s any consolation, even heavy thinning only reduces overall poundage by something like 15%.

Don’t wait too long or you will lose much of the benefit of thinning. Earlier is better.

Your trees are very easily of a size to begin bearing fruit. Nice looking trees btw.



Wow that is very far apart! I don’t think even commercial growers go that far, do they @Olpea ?

I do about 4" which is probably too close but I keep thinning throughout the season when I find bug damage.


I think the OP said he is concerned about the health of his young trees so 10-12” would help him get rid of a lot. I have seen this spacing recommendation several times.

For me, I typically thin anywhere from 6-10” apart. Two large limb breaking have reminded me to keep fewer peaches than losing all :confounded:

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Spacing is tricky and each branch has a different capacity. Not to take it to far in to static loading, but basic engineering applies, M=F x D. Factors that are key are approx center of mass of the peaches on a given branch/scaffold, number of peaches with approx weight. These are used to approximate the Bending moment.

I have used a fish scale to pull down the scaffold at this center of mass location to simulate what the branch would do under x number of peaches.
Scaffolds/branches hold a lot less than you think!

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Sounds like a fun experiment! I wonder if there’s a functional difference between the load that a branch will hold when it’s applied at one time (as it would be with your test) and the load it will bear if it gradually increases over the season (as it would with fruit ripening naturally).

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No doubt, a sustained load will much more likely break a branch vs. a higher short term load. My fish scale goes up to 20 lbs, and I stopped below that out of fear I’d break the branch.

Visually, the gradual bending is hardly noticed on larger scaffolds. Last year I had 18 inch fruiting wood bent almost straight down. Losing last years fruiting wood is fine, it wood have been cut off any way.

Though all my scaffolds have good collars/no bark inclusion, it would be heart breaking to lose one.

Most of my thinning is done with 6 to 8 inch spacing. Each scaffold has well over 125 peaches. But each day I find 10+ damaged ones…

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Interesting! I would have guessed that the branch would bear more if the load was gradually increased over time than it would if the load was applied at once (kind of the Milo and the calf principle). But I can see how the sustained load could potentially put more strain on the branch, too.

I thin pretty hard. I’m still trying for something in the 20 brix range. It remains elusive for me. When you have enough trees and if they are large, it can be too much fruit, so no real penalty for over-thinning. I under-thinned my 10 year old PF24C two years ago, lost some limb, and harvested 900 peaches off of that tree. They all had good size to them. Brix was about 3 points lower than “normal”. That experience helped me be more dedicated to thinning aggressively.


I think limiting the fruit set on 1 or 2 year old trees makes a lot of sense in order to protect the tree and let it out it’s energy into vegetative growth. By the 3rd year and definitely by the 4th year the tree is established enough to bear a lot of fruit. That doesn’t mean you should let it. By thinning you greatly improve the quality of fruits coming from the tree. Everybody has their own way of thinning fruit. My trees are all 5-6 years old but this is the first year I’ve had to thin any fruit from them and I’m just following the advice that I’ve received from some of the experts here. I’ve been doing mine in stages and it gives me a chance to target mishaped or insect damaged fruit. Now that the fruit is larger it’s been easier to judge spacing. I went from never having thinned to removing 6 gallons this year alone. It is a very time consuming process and a labor of love so I’ll try not to complain too much :slight_smile:


Re: 10-12" of branch space per peach.

Scott is correct that most commercial peach experts recommend tighter spacing than that.

However, there are a few things to note. Peach experts are really concerned with yield/acre on peach orchards. This is also in line with most commercial peach orchardists goals. Like almost all agriculture, greater yields = greater revenue, which almost always helps the bottom line which = staying in business.

The other caveat is that those tighter spacings of peach per branch space are generally assumed only the best wood is kept. In other words, all weak short shoots are removed, and trees are aggressively pruned, and trees are irrigated in dry climates (or dry weather) so that size doesn’t suffer from heavy cropping. This is almost never the case with backyard orchards.

What happens in most backyard orchards is that a person reads about a tight branch spacing for fruit, ends up leaving a horrendous amount of peaches on their tree, is rewarded with small, undelicious fruit. Scott has been doing this long enough, even if he starts out at 4" spacing per fruit, he knows how much fruit a certain size peach tree can handle when the fruit is mature. This is hard to communicate in written prose.

Let me just summarize that for good sized tasty fruit, it’s very difficult to overthin fruit. By thinning hard and early, the fewer fruit left on the tree, get that much bigger, and taste much better with higher sweetness. Most commercial growers get paid for poundage, not taste, so lean more towards max number of fruit per branch space, or per tree. I do it different than most commercial peach orchards. Most of my business is repeat. Repeat customers come back for taste, so that plays very heavily in our goals. Plus I like selling fruit which tastes good. So we thin much harder.

We more or less thin to 10-12", but we tend to round up. In other words, if someone new is just starting out thinning peaches on the trees, I cut a 12" stick. I tell them that if the shoot they are thinning is less than 12" (we’ve already pruned off little unproductive shoots of less than 8" at this point) then allow 1 peach. If the shoot is longer than the 12" stick, but shorter than 24" (two sticks worth) then thin to two peaches, etc. So the “rule” is one peach per 12" stick, but in practicality it probably averages to one peach every 10" for globose peaches (flat peaches have tighter spacing). I hope that makes sense.

However, we look at the trees after we are done thinning to see if we’ve left too much on them. A full sized tree (and I’m talking big peach trees) do best with 250 peaches per tree. For sure 300 peaches per tree on a large tree is the very max, before size and quality suffer. With 250 peaches per tree, they will generally produce 1/2 pound peaches which taste good.

Wardog, your peach trees look like about typical for 3rd year trees, except they look more or less unpruned, as there is no height control. I would expect those trees to produce about 100 good tasting peaches/tree max. Probably less than that, given the amount of foliage I see. Note that younger peach trees produce smaller fruit in general, but if thinned appropriately, the smaller fruit will still taste good.

Also all my comments are predicated on a good spray program, so that once the peaches are thinned, you don’t lose a bunch to insect damage or rot. Scott mentioned he leaves more fruit on at first, and thins accordingly as damage occurs. That is a good cultural practice for a light-handed spray program.

You don’t want to thin to 100 peaches per tree on your trees, only to lose 75 more peaches from insect damage. That would be too light a crop for your trees. My comments are based on a spray program which minimizes insect damage.

I hope I have successfully communicated how difficult the thinning guidelines can be, given all the various variables. However, please keep in mind, most new growers under thin, and under thin by a large degree. As mentioned, it is a psychological battle of the mind, in most cases. Pruning peaches is the same way.


Even though I am not a new grower, I admit I have never thinned enough. I thin in 3-4 rounds but, somehow, I have always ended up keeping too many peaches than I should. Limb breakage happened twice and fruit quality has been compromised all along.

It is a psychological torture to me to take perfectly good-looking peaches off the trees esp. during 3rd or 4th round of thinning.:confounded:


Tippy, it’s still a challenge for me too. On large trees, it’s easier for us to thin correctly because we can count the peaches as a check. Still, many times I want to push it up against the 300 peach per tree barrier, and go over that. So sometimes I have to relearn my own lesson. :grin:


It is the plums that I have the hardest time thinning, some of them are so massively loaded that I thin for 15 minutes and declare it done even though I am only 1/3 finished. At some point I learned to shake the tree branches really hard, that will get the first round done in about 10 seconds. Too bad that doesn’t work for peaches. I have three super-setter peach varieties, Athena, Baby Crawford, and Clayton, which are nearly as bad as the plums in terms of overset. It took me almost an hour to thin my Athena.

Oh and I definitely still end up under-thinned in many cases… usually I just forget that I need to come back and do more and then the heat kicks in and I greatly prefer my air-conditioned house to any orchard work :grin:


Commercial growers don’t thin to get maximum quality, just enough to assure good size. However, Olpea recommends at least 8" and his trees get dawn to dusk sun with lots of blue sky days.

When I thin to 8" it always amazes me how heavy laden the trees become by the time they reach harvest size.

As far as the OP’s concerns, his trees are healthy and mature enough to treat like any bearing age peach tree. 6-8" will be fine, but when you tell people 10-12" they are more likely to thin to about 5" spacing than to actually manage to thin to the wider spacing. I’ve never given thinning advice to anyone that ended up spacing them as wide as I suggest. Even when you are trying to you usually miss a lot of peaches.

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