How to trim a Contender Peach to encourage fruit production

Asked February 11, 2018, 12:24 PM EST

Hello, I have had a Contender Peach tree in the ground for 3 years. We have gone through 2 spring cycles and have yet to see any flower blossoms in the spring. I was recently reading about a peach tree needing to be trimmed into a vase like shape in order to encourage fruit production. Should I be trimming my central leader and if so, where would I place the cut? Thank you!

Scott County Minnesota

1 Response

Thank you for the question. Your question contains 2 issues - how to properly prune fruit trees and failure to fruit. Of all the stone fruits, peaches are the most tricky to grow in Minnesota because of the amount of sun and warmth they require. The cultivar, Contender, is one of the more hardy peach trees so don't lose hope! You might get some peaches yet if the weather cooperates. I suspect that the buds freeze in the spring before they can bloom and be fertilized. If your tree is otherwise healthy, all you can do is hope for warm spring weather without cold snaps and that this weather coincides with the tree bud-bloom cycle.

Pruning starts at planting time with the goal of directing tree growth to maximize sun exposure throughout the tree branches and developing strong lateral branches to hold the fruit (when you get it!). Pruning should be done in March. In the photo, it looks like the tree has a good leader so all you need to do is follow these directions. I'm pasting the "how to" from our publication Stone Fruits for Minnesota Gardens Read through the publication for much more detail.

General pruning guidelines

  • Remove diseased, broken, or dead branches.
  • Remove any downward-growing branches.
  • If two limbs are crossed, entangled, or otherwise competing, remove one of them completely at its base.
  • Remove any limb along the trunk that is getting bigger in diameter than the trunk.
  • Remove suckers coming up from the roots or low on the trunk.
  • Remove watersprouts, which are vigorous vertical branches.
  • Pruning cuts should be made close to the branch collar at the base of the limb. For larger limbs, first cut on the underside of the limb to avoid tearing the bark.
  • Remove large limbs first and start in the top of the tree.
  • Thinning cuts remove entire branches at the branch collar and are almost always recommended. Heading cuts remove only part of a branch and encourage unwanted vegetative growth just below the cut.
Thank you for contacting Extension.