Growing fruit trees for home use or in the commercial orchard are still popular ventures around East Texas. Peaches have been grown in Texas for more than 100 years.
Numerous factors come into play with a successful orchard. The performance of peach trees depends heavily on proper pruning annually.
Peach tree pruning is a hard, labor-intensive cultural practice. If peaches are left unpruned, the result is weak trees, overproduction, increase in diseases and a shorter life for the trees. Peaches bloom and bear fruit on second-year wood; therefore, the trees need to make good growth each spring and summer to ensure a crop the next year.
Each winter, a large number of shoots need to be present as fruiting wood. If the trees are not pruned annually, the volume of fruiting wood reduces each year and fruiting shoots move higher and higher becoming out of reach. Alternate-year pruning results in excessive growth the year following heavy pruning. Annual, moderate pruning is essential for the long-term control of tree vigor and fruiting wood.
Late spring frost is the most significant factor in Texas peach production. The grower does not want to prune too early to avoid frost damage.
The peach tree will bloom soon after pruning when chilling is satisfied and warm weather follows. Growers with only a few trees can wait until pink bud to prune. Growers with a large number of trees should not prune earlier than necessary. Most peach tree pruning occurs by February just prior to bloom in March.
The main idea of pruning is to remove old, gray-colored slow growing shoots. When pruning, one should leave one-year old red bearing shoots. Removing 40 percent of the tree annually stimulates new growth each spring.
The second objective of pruning is to lower the fruiting zone to a height that makes hand harvesting from the ground if possible. A properly pruned peach tree is usually no more than 7 feet at the highest limbs.
A third objective is to open the center of the tree. This increases air circulation, reduces disease pressure and allows sunlight into the tree, accelerating fruit color. Pruning to remove diseased or dead shoots, rootstock suckers and water shoots is another goal.
When pruning, make proper cuts. Cuts need to be at selected points at 45 to 50 degree angles. Pruning paint is not needed when pruning peaches today. Also, with new trees, training the trees to get them started off properly is important.
This information is for recommended practices for pruning peaches. For more information or a copy of an Extension publication on peaches and pruning peaches, contact our office at 903-590-2980.
Educational programs of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetic information or veteran status. The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas cooperating.