Pruning the rampant peaches

Peaches in need of pruning

Our two fan trained peaches were looking rather overgrown again, so it was time for a good pruning. They are vigorous trees that put on a lot of growth, although there was a marked difference between the two varieties. Early Rivers had put on less vegetative growth, but the peaches were approximately twice the size of those of Bellegarde. The glasshouse wall is only 6’ high and 20’ wide. I would guess that each of the peach trees could fill a space 12’ high and 18’ wide, so they tend to produce an abundance of new growth that needs regular pruning to keep under control in this restricted space. Pruning is a little complicated with peaches, as they fruit almost exclusively on one year old wood. Wood bearing fruit this year will be of no further use, so pruning and training is directed toward providing replacement fruiting wood for next year. At this time of year, when there is vigorous new growth, but the old wood has yet to bear its fruit, the trees can get a bit crowded. This is not good for the developing fruit, which needs to be exposed to the sunlight, so ruthless removal of excess growth is called for.

Early in the year, excess and misplaced shoots were rubbed off soon after they appeared. Some decisions as to which shoots to keep were postponed until more growth had been put on. Later, those that were left were tied in and, where necessary, pruned, and further decisions made as to which shoots to retain. At this stage, those young shoots have largely grown beyond their required size and much secondary growth has occurred. The first task today was to remove all misplaced secondary growth – those new shoots that are not growing parallel to the wall. Unlike the wood of apples and pears, that of the peach is not quite so robust, nor so flexible when it turns woody, and new shoots can be readily broken at the juncture with the old wood if one attempts to bend them too far from their natural position. It is better, therefore, to remove any shoots that are not ideally placed – there is plenty of well placed growth to fill the space – and to tie in new growth when very young.

A fan trained peach tree is typically formed of a more or less permanent structure of old wood, from which side shoots are trained to bear the fruit. However, in a couple of places, where branches of old wood were not currently bearing fruit, nor provided great side shoots for next year, there was an opportunity to replace with fresh young growth. The old wood was therefore removed and the new tied in place. New side shoots will no doubt develop and provide further fruiting wood for next year.

Having removed the obvious candidates, the previously selected replacement fruiting shoots, now overly long, were pruned to length. Further growth may well require this to be carried out again later in the year. Many of these had produced various side shoots, and a decision was needed as to which to retain, at least for now. Today’s pruning should suffice until the fruit has ripened, when the old fruiting wood can be removed and the new tidied up.

Peaches after pruning
Peaches after pruning

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