Pruning a peach tree

Asked March 17, 2015, 9:54 AM EDT

Hi, I probably should have come to you last year, but better late than never. I have a dwarf peach tree that I planted in spring 2013. I followed some advice on the internet about pruning peach trees (e.g., http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/vegetables/tree_fruits_nuts/hgic1355.html), which included topping it off to try to select scaffold branches. Actually, the first year I planted it, I didn't prune it at all; I topped it at 33 inches tall and selected scaffolds in spring 2014. Unfortunately, the scaffold branches I chose (based on radial spacing) didn't grow very well, so I let some of the other branches grow in order to choose new scaffolds. Now I'm not sure what to do about the tree -- do I still try to choose some scaffold branches, or should I just let these branches that remain continue to grow? If so, which are the best branches to keep (if the pictures are clear enough to tell)? It seems like some of the branches that are really strong have a relatively narrow crotch with the main trunk. Other things I've read say that I should not have topped the tree (at least not until it gets 7-8 feet tall), so I thought maybe I should let the one thick branch that is almost vertical continue to grow, as it thinks it is the main trunk now. I would also feel bad cutting one of the thicker branches because the tree has put so much energy into it already. Any advice you can give me to help save my peach tree would be great! Thanks!! Andrew

Montgomery County Maryland

1 Response

We apologize for taking so long to get back to you. Normally we answer questions the next day, but the University has been closed for spring break.

You have many good healthy branches on this tree, and plenty of good ones to choose from for scaffold branches. Select only 3-4 branches. They do not need to all be the same diameter at this time. Use the usual rules--space them 1-3 inches above each other, but staggered around the trunk so one is not directly above another. Try to use the largest ones where possible. And don't use really spindly ones.

From the photo is appears that the lowest branch (which is a good-looking branch) is only about 9 inches above the soil. You might want to select scaffolds above that.

If a branch is in a good position, but the crotch seems narrow, you can widen the crotch angle by using a "spreader". This is a length of wood with a notch at each end, or a clothespin, placed between the branches to apply pressure as they grow to grow at a wider angle.

Your tree looks great. Trees are quite forgiving most of the time. After you select your permanent scaffolds, prune off the other branches so that the tree will put all its energy into the scaffolds.
Here's a website that's a good reference: http://extension.psu.edu/plants/gardening/fphg

ECN