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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pruning Peach and Nectarine

Reader's peach tree
Q. I have 2 fruit trees a peach & nectarine They have shoots growing out of the main body should I cut these off? I planted them last year.

A.  Congratulations. Your tree looks extremely healthy and dark green. Pruning is a management technique that you use to achieve a form or structure that you desire from the tree.

At the orchard we normally cut the fruit trees that knee height or about 30 inches at the time of planting. We do this to establish the major limbs coming from the trunk that will support the fruit loads in the future. We establish these structural limbs that we called primary scaffolds at around 30 inches because we want to pick the fruit as close to the ground as possible while still keeping the fruit off of the ground. This is because we do not let our peach trees or nectarines produce fruit far enough above our heads that we need a ladder.

Pruning fruit tree at knee height after planting
To do this we need about 10 feet between trees as a minimum. From your picture it looked like your plants were closer than this. I want to give you some good advice but it depends on the structure of the tree that you want to accomplish and where you want your fruit to be produced.
At this point I would not remove any major limbs from your young tree until leaf drop this winter. However, I would remove any limbs coming from the trunk up to a height of about 30 inches. These should be cut flush to the trunk with a clean and sterilized pruning shears. These aren't doing you any good and you will never need them. Fruit can potentially be produced on any wood that grew this past season. On our peaches and nectarines any of the new growth that was over 24 inches long we normally pruned back to about 18 inches but no more than this. I hope this gets you on the right track.

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