Start pruning a peach tree when the buds form. Remove dead and damaged branches, remove old shoots and suckers, thin out the branches and prune the top of tree. This takes about an hour to complete. You need a pair of pruning shears.
- Remove dead, damaged and diseased branches
Remove any dead, damaged or diseased branches. Only new wood produces fruit. Start pruning right as the buds start to form.
- Remove old shoots and suckers
Remove shoots that are gray. These are old and do not produce fruit. Allow new shoots, which are a healthy red color, to stay. Using hands or pruning shears, remove the suckers at the base of the trunk.
- Thin out the branches
Thin out the branches on the tree, which allows light and air to reach the center of the tree. Choose several main branches with an angle of 45 degrees to keep, and remove the rest. You want the tree to have a natural vase shape. Remove the extremely thin and spindly branches.
- Prune the top of the tree
Prune the top of the branches to a height that is comfortable during harvesting. Remove up to 40 percent of the branches each year. This encourages new growth and fruiting in subsequent years.
Peach trees should not be trimmed when they are dormant as they are weak in cold weather and more susceptible to dieback during that time. Dieback causes a plant to die from the branch tips back in towards the roots and can be brought on by the environment, bacteria, fungi or viruses. To avoid dieback, it is better err on the side of caution and trim a bit late, as opposed to too early. Peaches grow on 1-year-old branches, so annual heavy pruning generates new fruit-producing branches each year.
To prevent shade on lower blossoms and maximize sun exposure, choose three to five main branches of the peach tree, and prune them to move upward and outward from the trunk at a 45-degree angle. Damaged, diseased and broken branches must also be pruned to reduce congestion and ensure healthy new growth. Aim to keep branches that are shorter than 18 inches and as thick as a pencil. Control the height of the tree and allow for an easier harvest by topping off branches to an accessible height.