Reshaping 3rd leaf peaches - remove scaffolds or other training/pruning?

Have 2 peach trees I couldn’t give training attention as they grew, and they ended up way too vertical. Now entering their 3rd leaf…

Am I better off pruning off the major scaffolds to allow some of the more minor branches to become the main scaffolds, using the ‘hinge’ method to do some aggressive re-shaping, or something else?

Definitely want to keep the height on these low.

Thanks for guiding me through this one!

I would cut all the branches below those 3 big ones and then make the 3 big ones shorter by 1/3.

That 2nd one is a mess


Thanks for the thoughts. How is it best to go about lowering the strong upright nature of growth?

After looking back at some notes and threads, it seems like using hinges may be the best way to go on getting the verticality out.

I agree with this, I would also suggest pruning them in early spring once growth has started to reduce chances of infections. Peaches are sensitive little things and when you prune them while growth is active they heal over the wounds better and faster, less time for infections to creep in.


Ok, thanks for the thoughts

I would just prune for the branching you want and tie down the limbs in the spring. The wood is still pretty flexible and you and your crotch angles seem good. I also agree with removing anything below the 3 main scaffolds at least for the first tree which is looking pretty good really (you could try to get that 4th lower branch be a fourth scaffold). For the second you really just need to choose which of the branches you want to be the scaffold you seem to have 2 obvious ones and 2 is all you really need. I recall @Olpea suggest only having 2 scaffolds on peaches anyways. Usually do 3 or 4 but its surprising how crowded things get eventually.

The fruit that will be on the branches this year will also help pull things down presumably too.


I would keep the 3 large scaffold branches and prune all the low branches off.

Would be a good idea to prune several of the larger scaffolds so they will fork and fill in the space.

Mike Parker has You Tube video on pruning peach trees of different ages where he demonstrates the technique.

This video may fit your situation:


Hi Pib,

I have recommended a couple scaffolds on peaches in some situations. My favorite is to generally have three scaffolds. I recommend two when it there aren’t any good choices for 3 scaffolds. Most of our trees have three scaffolds. Some have two and they still fill in just fine, though perhaps not as fast. Some of our trees have four scaffolds, those do get crowded. I try to avoid four scaffolds as much as possible in our climate.

I’d echo the advice given here so far. Just leave the top three scaffolds and cut them back to a more horizontal growing shoot, even if I had to cut them back by 2/3rds. One could use the hinge method to leave more of the scaffold and just bend it down.

I’ve done the hinge method before many times, but their are some risks with hinging. With peaches, the wood isn’t very strong and you can break the scaffold off, if not very careful. Also it places a pretty big wound on the part where multiple hinge cuts are made (the bark dies there) which can take a while to heal.

As mentioned, it’s generally optimum to prune during the growing season, when the wounds will callus over.


This I question. Commercial growers need to fill in space as quickly as possible and get big yields for a few years then cut down the trees and start over in 10-15 years. Home growers might be better served to remove secondary wood more than half the diameter of the scaffold to which they are connected. Follow this principal and you will have fewer split branches form crop-load and wind and the general pruning methods are simplified.

I have a 30 year old Madison peach on my property that is still very productive with no empty donut space and I manage a lot of older peach trees elsewhere. This is just one of those things where commercial growers work from a different context than home growers. People I work for pay over $500 for a peach tree luxuriously installed. They only want to replace them when they are dead.

Almost all the trees I manage on estates and homes have to be baffled from coons and squirrels, so the scaffold branches need to start after 4-5’ of straight trunk. I use string to train the scaffolds to more horizontal position or just prune them to grow that way, but such cuts are weak for a couple of years.

I often tie the string around the base of the trunks… One year doesn’t girdle them.


What works in the video may not work in your area but works great here and in much of the southeast.

Don’t believe 3 scaffolds with no forks will produce a tree with the greatest amount of Superior fruit here. Most of my trees have 4 scaffolds and some of them have multiple forks. We don’t over thin and normally don’t find time to summer prune.

Many customers tell me that we grow the best peaches they have ever tasted and just 125 trees produce more fruit than I can pick

Peach trees do not last a long time here. 10-15 years is probably the expected lifespan of a peach tree in the backyard and on the farm too.

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I suspect your peaches are not good because you allow scaffolds to fork, they are good because you adequately thin and have dawn to dusk sunlight- and probably chose excellent varieties and don’t try to get more weight by pumping them with excess water a few weeks before harvest. I grew fruit in S. CA before I moved here and have grown fruit full-time here for over 30 years, but never for commercial production. Still, I probably prune about 400 peach trees a year of a wide range of ages and under different types of maintenance- some get supplementary water, some don’t- and soil types are all over the map. Some get sun all day and some get less than half. Some are growing right in sod, some are mulched with wide rings… none are grown with herbicide treated strips.

You know much more about commercial production, but I probably know a lot more about the needs of home growers than you, and I bet where you live I could get 25 years productivity out of peach trees. However, most couldn’t afford to pay me, but they could learn to do what I do for themselves.

The training methods I use at some sites to keep old trees in productivity involves taping water sprouts towards the center of trees down to other branches to keep productive wood forming in the middle of the trees for as long as possible. On my own trees I can keep trees productive throughout with summer pruning to keep lots of light low in the tree throughout. I don’t need to tape water sprouts to fill blank spots because there aren’t any… even after 20 years.

I’m being schooled a lot here today :slight_smile: Thank you all very much!

First off… I’m learning to not try and prune the peaches dormant (or maybe you all mean only the larger cuts). Second… I’m learning to not neglect tree training in it’s 2nd year. Third… when asking for pruning advise, I need better pictures from top and side view points.

Unfortunately, I already trimmed back the two major scaffolds on that first tree ‘A’, yesterday (before the comment about waiting until the active season was made). I can pause on any additional pruning on the peaches until they spring to life.

I feel like the A1/A2 wood is quite stiff, and doubt I would get it to lay down more without splitting those two largest scaffolds, which are almost opposite each other. Hence why I was considering the hinges. I was also concerned with the distribution of branches, as using A1/A2/A3 may be a bit lopsided. I wasn’t sure if a practical option would be heading the tree above A3 was a practical option to consider (leaving A3/A4/A5 as main scaffolds).

On the other tree… the scaffold angles on B1 & B2 are not as bad as the other tree. On this one, I wasn’t sure if heading to use B2/B4/B5(or B3) should be considered.

It sounds like no one is recommending heading to use alternate scaffolds, and that I should find a way to work with the primarys that were already formed in the first growing season… but let me know if someone has a different thought.

Many thanks, all – what a great community here!

Thank you for referencing that video… I stumbled into it yesterday and watched it at least 3 times, but to the newbie… there is a lot to digest in each new situation :slight_smile:

One thing I can never find good info on (and I’ve searched) is how far out from the center that the scaffolding should fork, and if it is a side branch or more of the primary terminating and 2 side branches.

Ok, thanks for the insightful info and clarifying that those could be taken down even further, as needed.

Thanks for your insights. Unfortunately, getting fruit in peaches here is less common than in most other places, given late frosts. Fingers crossed for this year!

When I pruned my peaches while dormant, they produced lots of gooey sap from the wounds. When I waited until the plant was flowering to prune, there was no sap at all and they healed much better

Ha! I’ve been pruning peaches here for a couple of weeks and they are weeks from showing any green. It isn’t disease in general so much as canker you’d be trying to prevent and this is rarely a problem here, although I assume it might be in a commercial orchard with hundreds of trees all contributing to potential inoculum.

There is so much accepted wisdom via university recs to commercial growers that doesn’t really apply to small stands of fruit trees, IMO- but even the commercial growers take such recs with a grain of salt and are sometimes guided in other directions by experience. I have an awful lot of anecdotal experience which I was rather forced to acquire because of all the orchards I manage and all the work I’m doing by the time peach trees are into first growth.

Here they suggest canker will kill trees not pruned when they can most quickly close wounds and then they recommend replacing them every 10-15 years. I don’t follow the recs and keep peach trees productive for double that. I manage home orchards, they base their recs on commercial production.

It isn’t that I’m some kind of fruit tree whisperer, it’s just that recs tend to be extremely conservative and based on massive plantings for max productivity per acre. Meanwhile one productive peach tree in its prime bears too much fruit for one family to handle, usually.

At any rate, when you always manage trees by the recommendations of others, you don’t necessarily learn the difference between what is seriously important and what might someday be a problem at some sites.

In 30 years here of pruning peaches during the dormant season I’ve never been confronted with serious canker issues.

That said, I prune my own peach and nects when they are in full bloom. That is when I’m home minding my nursery after the first round of oil and fungicide sprays on the orchards I manage.


Definitely can’t learn much in a handful of years only having 10 fruit trees… that’s what makes this forum so great, to hear from others who have experience, in situations like this. Thanks!

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Take my suggestions with a grain of salt as well. There are so many variabilities even from site to site, let alone region to region. That is something I have a lot of experience with that most commercial growers lack. Most often they only grow their fruit on a single property… maybe two.

Also, sometimes, perfectly logical leaps from anecdote eventually prove mistaken. Sorting it all out ends when you stop growing fruit.