Some weeks ago I wrote about disbudding the peach bush growing in our polytunnel. At the time I mentioned that those in the glasshouse would need doing soon and that I would show what was needed for fan trained specimens. Well, I pinched out the unwanted shoots a few weeks ago and was only reminded that I had not yet written about it when I was thinking that it will not be long before poorly placed and excess fruitlets need to be removed, at least from the bush and Early Rivers fan; Bellegarde, being a much later sort, is slower to develop.
With the bush, it was difficult to decide what method of pruning and training would be most suitable to keep it compact yet productive. With the fan trained peaches it is much easier to determine what needs to be done. For the most part, the shoots that ought to be retained are fairly obvious. One does not always end up with a perfect situation and must work with what the tree provides. Peaches fruit on the previous year’s growth, so the challenge is to develop a good supply of one year old fruiting wood. With a fan, there is a certain number of framework branches from which fruit bearing laterals are taken. The framework can be developed in various ways. For ours, we started with a feathered maiden and cut the main trunk just above two low opposing branches and tied these in to form a Y shape. From these main branches one can then take two or three laterals above and one below to form a framework that covers the available wall space. Generally, these main branches are permanent features of the fan, although I am not at all against replacing even parts of the framework when a well placed shoot provides the opportunity. The reason I consider this is that the younger wood tends to be more inclined to generate plenty of new side shoots.
The general procedure is to consider each piece of fruiting wood in turn. Ideally, two shoots should be identified near the base of this wood that can later be tied in as a replacement. One, or perhaps both, may be retained, depending on the space available, but having a spare is wise in case one shoot becomes damaged. The existing wood is cut out as soon as it has borne this year’s fruit and the replacement(s) tied in. The replacement shoots should be in the same plane as the fan, rather than facing toward or away from the wall or other support against which the fan is being trained. The terminal shoot is also retained to carry the sap, but all other shoots on the fruiting wood are removed. One can leave any shoots that are suitably placed for filling in any gaps in the fan or even replacing parts of the framework. Generally, though, the tree will look rather bare once the excess shoots are pinched out. The terminal shoots can be pinched off once they have grown half a dozen or so leaves.
Pruning and training of peach fans is somewhat time consuming as they need careful attention at various times throughout the year. This is made worse by us not having quite as large an area of wall as would be ideal, so it is even more important to begin the process by properly removing all of the excess shoots. It is quite likely that further shoots will need to be removed later, and the new growth will develop quite quickly and will also need pinching out.