Thinning peaches by pruning

Thinning some of your peaches or nectarines by pruning whole branches. Good idea or bad. Why?

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I watched a dave wilson video and that was how they were thinning. You should be able to find the video and hear what they were talking about. Mine always drop a lot of them and I just grab the ones that are going to touch.

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I have watched their videos for years, but I guess I must have missed that one. Going to look for it now. Thanks for the suggestion.

A little off topic, but this video shows thinning when the peaches are the size of golf balls. Ideally shouldn’t you prune earlier?

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They were thinning larger sized fruits in this Dave Wilson video too.

In CA you can pretty much count on peaches heavily over bearing. Even here in S. NY it is a rare season when late heavy frost reduces the crop, however there are times when only the flowers on weak wood bear fruit because they tend to open later, so it can be a good idea not to do fine pruning until danger of hard frost (below 25 degrees) is past. Also, when you fear a high percentage of buds may have been killed by the preceding winter or early spring low temps it’s best to wait for fruit set.

As far as pruning even later than this, there’s no reason not to come back and prune when fruit is developing to eliminate any small wood that isn’t receiving full sun, shaded fruit tends not to get the sugar.

If you want highest quality peaches or nects, thin to about an 8" distance when still tiny. According to the literature, when they are first sizing up, thinning increases size by producing more cells in each fruit, later thinning increases cell size. The former tends to increase brix, which is what we want.


In a productive year, we prune out a lot of shoots with fruit on them. A vigorous tree needs to be pruned hard or the canopy gets too dense once summer really gets going. In a good year, a productive peach tree will have way too many shoots with fruit.

Start pruning off the most unproductive shoots which are low and toward the center, then prune off shoots less than 8" in length, then start pruning off vertical shoots. This assumes you’ve already removed vigorous water spouts, which should be removed every year no matter what.

There is an old saw which is very true when it comes to pruning peach trees. You want to prune them so you can throw a cat through the tree. It’s shocking to most people how much a peach tree needs pruned. Most of the time it involves removing 50% (or more) of the wood. This advice is for vigorous healthy peach trees.


Hey, my understanding is that that’s an old apple growers joke- prune them open enough so you could throw a cat through 'em!

Peaches are much more likely to be pruned open enough to do that, but then you need to prune them some more. :wink:


Good idea…if late frosts kill most of the blooms, you can forego pruning so that what few fruit survive get to grow.

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@Olpea .My grandpa was a man of very few words. He had some trees. I ask him once when to prune his response. Whenever it needed done. @alan
I just learned more from the two of you in 3 minutes reading about pruning than i knew from my entire life time growing & living on a farm. Thanks.
( Our farm dealt mainly with beef cattle, fruit trees were ancillary at best.)


That’s true Blueberry. We try to get the major pruning done early (mainly remove the vigorous water spouts larger than 3/8" in diameter) and remove some underwood which will clearly be touching the ground if they are heavy with fruit. But we leave a lot of extra shoots for the circumstances you mention.

If there is a light year of fruit because of frost or a bad winter, we then go through and remove shoots which don’t have fruit on them. In most light years, this practice still enables the tree to carry a full load.

This year is different. So many trees will be blank, if we pruned them all that way, we wouldn’t have any tree left.

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I came here today specifically to ask this question because I got VERY little pruning done. I decided to do a search first to see if anyone had already asked and low and behold, I already asked. :smiley: Gotta love that search feature.

Is anyone else thinning by pruning?

I observed a orchard doing it in 1991 or thereabouts…an orchard I used to rent bees to.
They expected freeze damage…and didn’t plan to prune at all if most of the blooms got frozen. So that they could still have a small crop. *But pruned vigorously if the fruit set had been heavy.


I think every student of pruning should wait until bloom to prune the first season the trees are ready to bear a true crop, especially with apples. You learn so much when you see the trees in bloom, such as how much of the crop of shy bearers you are losing because they are tip bearers and you would otherwise remove much of the crop thinning shoots. This year my Ashmeads Kernel had at least 30% of its crop on shoots I might have removed if I hadn’t fallen behind on pruning. A lot of the flowers are on the tips of long shoots. I will not prune this tree again when it is dormant until I have transformed it into a reliable bearer or have converted it to other varieties.

Once trees have more or less reached the desired size I see no disadvantage to delayed pruning.


I appreciate your input @alan now I don’t feel so bad about not getting the pruning done. :slight_smile: