"V" crotch in young peach tree

I faded out of the forum after spring last year – got a little busy having our 3rd baby and raising three kids under 4! So, I haven’t been around for a few months.

But with spring approaching I have my mind back on our plants, though we aren’t adding to our fruit collection this year, just maintaining (kids growth more important than planting trees)!). I was pruning our three peach trees (this is the beginning of their third year in the ground) the other day when I had a sickening realization. One tree trunk had a “v” when it came (formed by a branch coming off the main trunk) and I didn’t think much of it when planting as a newbie but just pruned back both points of the “v” to encourage low scaffolding, since the “v” was so close to the graft that I didn’t think I could cut under it. Now I am thinking I should have cut off one side? I just didn’t visualize what it would look like in future until I saw this picture on page 5 here (Https://pubs.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/pubs_ext_vt_edu/422/422-020/422-020_pdf.pdf So I’m asking for advice. Do I cut out one half of it now – losing half the tree but hopefully gaining a stronger tree in the end-- or leave it? Here’s the tree. You can see that the graft was very very close to the roots as well.

Thats not a dreaded V, it goes out then up. But its still not the best angle. My bigger concern is if the branch on the right is not below the graft. Often when there is a shoot coming out like that it is because the graft top is not so vigorous so there is a big shoot coming out below the graft.

Anyway personally I would check for the graft mark and keep it as-is if the right branch appears to be above the graft. The tree will be seriously lopsided if that scaffold was removed.

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Not a configuration I would have much confidence in when holding a heavy crop without tying them together with some rope. I’m a firm believer in removing wood when young to build a solid structure, or later if that’s needed- for a vigorous peach tree it only means a year set-back at most. But that is too much for many home orchardists. That said, plenty of solid peach trees have been built without following the methods described in my pruning guide “pruning by numbers”, but if you observe the ratio rule your structure will always be solid and capable of holding the weight of big crops. .

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Agreed, and if you can’t locate the graft mark, compare bloom timing, flowers and leaves. Both sides should match.

I don’t mind losing half the tree this year – if that’s the wiser option – I’d hate to have it fail several years down the road. I’m just irked at myself for not realizing the issue up til now!

Here are better pictures. I don’t have some from when we first planted the tree – it was clearer then – but I thought then that both branches were above the graft, though super close. The graft was so close to the root, too. IMG_8363b

It looks worse from that angle. It also depends on how wide you plan to let it go, if you want a wide tree it is more at risk for breakage. More upright and narrow will put less force on that V. Given that I don’t see any trees around it I expect you want it to get nice and wide, in which case it may be best to remove it. For me I don’t let any peach tree get too wide and I would be able to keep such an angle without too much worry.

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I’d also cut one side off, as long as it is above the graft. Probably cut the left side in the last picture.

Cutting 1/2 a young peach tree doesn’t even make me flinch anymore. When I choose scaffolds, sometimes I end up cutting just about everything off.

I assume your weed barrier allows water to penetrate?

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The left side definitely tilts but it has better branches than the right. . . Yes, the weed barrier has been great. we have horrible wiregrass and my husband got smart and put a 3-4 foot square around most of the fruit trees. It lets water go through well. And the rocks all came FROM the fruit tree hole. . .!

We have our trees spaced I think about 20 feet apart – we wanted them to be wide and low but with plenty of mowing room.


I would cut off most of the wood, eliminating the left side and most of the right leaving only a more upright tree with small future scaffolds- but at this point I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I would also use a crutch pressed against the remaining tree to straighten it. If you leave either side as nearly whole the tree will be excessively leaning in one direction which, in my experience of growing 2 varieties in one hole, can become a problem where the tree tips over entirely from the roots.

but if I was you, I’d probably insert two eyescrews between your co-dominant leaders and connect them permanently with a strong wire. Then you can enjoy your peaches this year and avoid having the tree split down the middle indefinitely.

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I would leave it, the tree has other problems, not sure it’s best to start over with this one? It looks to me to be planted too deep, and this is causing cracking and possibly canker at the base, not sure how long this one will live? Hard to tell without a closeup of the base, from what I can see it is having issues. In the future just barely put roots underground, and not a bad idea to mound the tree. You want roots close enough to the surface that when the trees is older that the roots flare above ground. Current conditions are stressing the tree and the immune system making it more vulnerable to pathogenic infections such as canker.
Some trees it doesn’t matter they can handle it, or even like being buried deeper. Peach is not one of them.
Hopefully I’m wrong here, but it looks like you have cracks at the base in the bark. They say to keep mulch away from the trunk, well what’s even worse than mulch around the trunk is soil!

So i would tie the branches together as Alan mentions. Open the center up, remove all those water sprouts, and thin the fruit well.

A stressed tree does not demonstrate the healthy vigor that is indicated by the photo and if it was planted too deep in a manner to permanently endanger the tree it would not have grown so well after transplanting, IMO.

Well time will tell, it certainly looks in trouble to me. Appears bark is breaking away and will soon girdle the tree. Well not that soon, maybe 3 years from now.

And a close up photo of the trees base would tell a lot also. Serious canker would be causing major “peach jelly” production.

I’m not seeing that in mine, I have a problem child, it has only 25% of the bark left on mine. Not much if any jelly. And it did grow well, still is.

Container tree? I don’t know if that would make a difference but the canker I get here produces lots of it- it is the normal response to all injuries to peaches.

I’ll get a better picture today. I might even be able to find my original pictures from when it was planted which were clearer about the graft because the trunk was thinner.

It has definitely demonstrated healthy growth. I was just starting to prune it for this year when the dilemma hit me.

Thank you all for taking the time to share advice. It’s much appreciated on this learning journey! The goal is that our kids will be very well informed by the time they’re ready to plant their own trees as adults!


I never worry about a peach tree being out of balance and tipping. And very few people on this forum would have more wind than we do here in KS/MO (I’m on the border.) So far, my trees have withstood 60+ mile an hour winds (multiple times) when the ground was at full water saturation. Sometimes I have apple tree bust off at the graft union. The key is keeping them low, which you mentioned was your goal. I will put a qualifier on my claim that you should be aware of. We have heavy soil here, probably unlike VA which has a lot of sand. It’s much easier to dig trees out of sand than out of clayey soil we have (even wet). But you wouldn’t get near the wind we get here. Whenever I’m in SC (assume it’s about the same as VA) I’m shocked at the lack of wind. It almost always blows here, unless it’s the dog days of summer.

The real danger here with peach trees and wind is they will wallow out the hole when young and soil is wet, and bust off all the roots below. I remedy this by pouring sand in the wallowed out hole to firm them up.

I’ve got trees leaning every which way at the farm and they don’t blow over. They either got planted in the hole crooked, or I didn’t like the way the scaffolds were going so I clipped the young trees back to a leaning shoot to make the trunk, or the tree started leaning a little bit before it developed a root structure. Here are a couple pics of trees I have at the house (just stepped out and took photos) leaning or out of balance.

Again, I wouldn’t even blink at lopping off one of those scaffolds on your tree. To me, it’s a lot easier to just train a tree right rather than manage around a poorly trained tree with dual trunks.

The tree above is really out of balance, but it will fill in the other side. Peach trees grow fast in the space where there’s lot’s of sunlight.

I disagree (sort of) with the assessment that your tree has some problems with canker. It may have canker (I’m not seeing it, but it’s possible.) To me your tree looks healthy. Another qualifier is that I don’t live that far north, and we have long growing seasons here, which, so far, have rendered canker a non-issue. Even if a tree gets canker, they never die from it. The vigor of the tree stays ahead of the canker. VA is probably the same in that regard. If I lived further north, I’m sure my opinion would change.

Here is a close up view of the pic above of the tree out of balance. The bark looks bad, but it used to look worse. A couple years ago, I pruned this as a young tree before a really bad cold spell and it killed one side of the tree, including the bark on that side. It looked horrible. The bark has slowly grown back, and I suspect by the end of this season, it will finally just about close up.

I gave it a shot of N fertilizer (top dress) the other day to help it fill in, which will also help close the wound. But I’m really not worried about the wound.

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No in ground. Hey I really don’t have much experience, and want to learn too. It’s great JoAnna posted this as we can follow along. Curious as to what happens to the tree. Same with my own tree. Seeing that bark heal on what Olpea posted is encouraging but in my case, I think the canker is too bad to recover from. Maybe it’s my short season? It has been progressively getting worse every year. The wound is not healing, it’s getting bigger. Part of it with mine is it’s the rootstock Citation, not a good fit for here.

I mentioned possible canker on JoAnna’s tree because mine looked just like that at one time. Hopefully I’m wrong on this. I also thought maybe leave it alone if the tree is in trouble anyway, grab the fruit before you can’t. If it’s fine yeah i would redo the tree. Even bad pruning is a learning experience and makes you better.

I would be curious as to what rootstock is on this tree?

That is cool! My kids were too old by the time I started. i started though because my dad had fruit trees, so it works! Also weight heavy the other posters advice, they know their stuff, I’m still learning about these trees too!

Yes, wish I knew how the damage occurred, the trunk was painted, and it has the least sun of all my trees. I didn’t find any borers, or evidence they were there.

Maybe the 2 in one hole trees tend to fall over as much because of lopsided root systems, then.