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Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved
One old adage recommend pruning “anytime the pruners are sharp” as a guideline. That applies to all broken, dead and diseased branches, but do all major pruning during the dormant season. Pruning procedures vary with the type, age, and variety of trees but prune all fruit trees the day you put them in the ground and at least once per year thereafter.
Never leave stubs when cutting away limbs. These will die, but not heal over and they decay and allow insects and diseases to invade the tree.
Train peach and most others stone fruit trees to the open center system. Cut new trees at 30", just above a lateral branch or bud. Shoots will develop during the season from which you can select scaffold limbs. Select branches during the summer or wait until the dormant season.
If the tree is already branched, select three or four laterals well spaced up and around the trunk for the permanent scaffold limbs. Cut these back to two buds each and remove all other laterals. The main scaffold or primary branches should go out at the four points of the compass.
Select branches that come out at a forty-five-degree angle with the trunk. Narrow upright branches are not good scaffolds because of included bark that breaks off if the fruit gets too heavy.
Once the peach scaffold system is established, prune as little as possible until the tree becomes mature enough to fruit. Remove the upright shoots in the center of the tree and trim terminal growth on the scaffold limbs to outward growing laterals. This helps develop an open center tree.
Peaches bear fruit on the previous year's growth. Mature peach trees are heavily pruned each year to stimulate new growth to maintain production near the main body of the tree. Pruning mature peach tree is mainly of moderate thinning and heading back to outward growing laterals to keep the tree low and spreading. Allow the trees to grow and put out as many leaves as possible. This feeds the roots so the trees can grow.
The branch angle is very important on trees. Upright branches that form a narrow angle with the trunk are very weak and usually do not develop many fruit buds. What fruit comes on the branches, it is usually inferior in size and color. Once again, you own the trees so you must train the branches to come out and grown at least a 45 to 65 degrees with the trunk of the tree.
Is pruning worth all the time and effort? Consider the alternatives. An untrained, unpruned tree produces little if any fruit. It also is weak structurally so if and when it gets a large crop of fruit it often breaks the tree down and destroys it. Spend a little time and effort studying the process and avoid the need for horticultural counseling. The biggest mistake is most gardeners make is that they do not prune consistently each year.