The Q&A Archives: Peach Tree Growing

Question: I bought a house which has a peach tree. This was it's second year to bear fruit. How do I care for the tree so that I get a good harvest next year?

Answer: Peach trees produce best when trained to an open center, meaning that you want to end up with 3-4 main side branches ("scaffold branches"), avoiding a central leader trunk. If yours tree is fairly young and has had no previous pruning, head it back to 30-36" tall. Scaffold branches should be at least 20" off the ground and form a 45 degree angle with the trunk. If the tree hasgood candidates for scaffold branches, cut them back to 4-5". They should have at least a couple of buds each, which will branch out into fruiting limbs. You should have all the scaffold branches chosen and pruned appropriately by the beginning of the spring after planting. At that time, remove all other branches and any root suckers (sprouts emerging from the roots).

If during the second summer you notice the scaffolds bending to a wider than 45 degree angle, you'll need to remove some wood, lessening the weight on the branch. It's the only summer pruning you should have to do. By the fourth year, the tree should be bearing, and your pruning should be reduced to removing dead/weak/crossing/damaged branches, with the goal of keeping the center open, and the lateral branches within easy picking height. Older, slower growing trees need even less pruning - head back lateral branches that have grown less than 8" in a year to the next outward-branched lateral limb.

I can recommend a wonderful book if you are interested in growing even more fruits; "Backyard Fruits & Berries" by Diane E. Bilderback & Dorothy Hinshaw Patent (Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA; ISBN# 0-87857-509-X). Enjoy!

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