Pruning is essential to the health of your peach tree. It trains the tree to grow in a maximumly productive way. It also allows air circulation to prevent or reduce disease. Pruning is rather labor intensive but if not hard. Prune when the tree is dormant, in late January or early February in the Northern Hemisphere, in the two coldest months in the Southern Hemisphere. Use clean, sharp shears to make each cut and clear the cut branches away after you are through pruning.
The first time you prune a peach tree is when you plant it. Cut it off at about two feet tall and remove all the branches. When finished, you should have a bare two foot stick in the ground. This gives the roots time to get established before the top grows too much.
Training the first and second year depends on how much the plant has grown.
1)The first step is to remove the suckers. These are all the shoots below the grafting knot.
2)Next you clip the tips on the main branches 18 to 24 inches from the trunk to force the tree to develop side shoots. The main branches are called scaffolds
3) The first, second and third year training depends on growth rate. If there are watersprouts, remove them. Remove the suckers from the tree. Remove larger branches that fill in the bowl shaped center to allow air to circulate. Cut the tips off only if the tree gets bigger than you can comfortably reach to pick peaches.
4)After the third year, trees will be growing proficiently. This is a mature tree before being pruned.
5) Clip subscaffolds and other branches to keep the tree short enough that you can reach the peaches at the top of the branches. Cut off the old shoots that have borne peaches. Fruit only grows on one year shoots so these must be regrown each year. Thin out crowded shoots that will receive little sunlight. Remove low hanging branches that are in the way or may sag to the ground under a crop load.
As you can see, pruning properly is a lot of work but will ensure your tree has the best chance to stay healthy and produce lots of peaches each year.
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