Peach trees are magnificent fruit trees that evoke visions of warm climates and the delicious fruit picked straight from the tree taste so much better than any peaches you can get in stores.
There is no hiding that peach trees do love a warm and sunny spot to grow and prosper in, and they do have a few more intricacies than some other fruit trees. This includes potentially needing to protect them from rainfall in winter and spring if growing outdoors, along with pruning them at a different time to other popular fruit trees.
As well as knowing how to prune a peach tree, you need to also know when. While many of the best fruit trees, such as apples and pears, are pruned during the winter period, a peach tree can suffer if trimmed at the same time.
When is the best time to prune a peach tree?
Any of the stone fruit trees, including peaches but also the likes of plums, cherries and apricots, are best pruned in the spring or summer. Follow these key considerations and you will be giving your tree the best chance of producing a fruitful harvest for years to come.
When should you prune a peach tree?
Peach trees need to be pruned when they are in active growth, rather than in their dormancy period like when pruning fruit trees such as apples or pears. It is important to remember this, as pruning at the wrong time is a common pruning mistake that impacts the health of the tree and also any future harvests.
Pruning peach trees in spring helps to build a supply of new wood that will carry next year’s fruit, but also ensures the plant avoids diseases that can enter pruning cuts. If peaches were pruned during their dormancy period then they would be highly susceptible to die back and also at risk of infection from silver leaf - a fungal disease that gets into trees through pruning wounds and affects leaves before causing whole branches to die.
The best time to prune a peach tree is just before growth starts in early spring, or when the buds first start to open. John Negus, a vastly-experienced gardening expert, claims ‘a good time to prune your peach is when the flowers have set and you can differentiate between unflowered and flowered stems’.
He also recommends to ‘feed with Vitax Q4 or blood, fish and bone for robust growth’ after you have pruned your peach tree. Alternatively, you could use Down to Earth Organic Fish Bone Meal Fertilizer available at Amazon. When it comes to fertilizing fruit trees, they do need lots of key nutrients in early spring when the new growth starts coming through. In terms of peach trees, this does marry up with the time of year you want to be pruning. However, remember that you should not feed fruit trees after July.
John has been a garden journalist for over 50 years and regularly answers readers' questions in Amateur Gardening magazine. He has also written four books and has delivered many talks over the years on horticulture.
Can you prune a peach tree in the summer?
Pruning peach trees in the spring is ideal to help form the shape of the tree, often it can be easier to view before the tree is full of foliage. It offers the best way to get the desired shape and ensure a supply of new wood to carry the flowers and fruit come next year. Peach trees should only be pruned to create the shape for the first three years. So, if you have planted a young peach tree, or grown a peach tree from seed, it pays to stick to spring pruning until the tree is established.
Peach trees can then also be pruned in the summer, as they are still actively growing at this time. Established peach trees can be pruned after fruiting to control the growth and to help to promote the development of flowers and fruit lower down in the tree’s canopy next year. The summer also offers the opportunity to remove unwanted central shoots to help improve the penetration of light into the tree.
If you are growing peach trees in trained forms, such as in a fan shape or as an espalier tree, then summer pruning can include removing older wood and restricting any strong growth or unnecessary shoots.
Can you prune a peach tree in the fall?
It is not recommended to prune peach trees during the fall. As well as issues with dieback and disease, pruning peaches at the wrong time of year can actually negatively affect their cold hardiness. Mané Mehrabyan of Mehrabyan Nursery also warns of further potential issues that can be caused by pruning too late in the year, adding: 'If you prune in the fall, then new growth will start but will be damaged by the cold winter.’
What is the dormant stage of a peach tree?
The dormancy period of a peach tree starts when the tree loses its leaves in fall and it lasts until the growth starts again come spring. Every peach tree has this dormant stage, where it shows no signs of growth on the exterior. The first signs of a peach tree coming out of dormancy is when the flower beds start to swell. At this point there will still be no green tissue growing, but the swelling of the buds will indicate the time to start pruning peaches has arrived.
Peach trees are thankfully not too demanding to look after overall, and they are very versatile fruit trees. They are a good food to grow in a greenhouse – where they are protected from wet conditions in winter and spring that can cause peach leaf curl – as well as being great options for fruit trees to grow in pots and also one of the best fruit trees for small gardens if you are short of space but still want to crop delicious homegrown peaches. See the range of peach trees available at Fast Growing Trees, which includes patio peach trees that can be grown in the smallest of spaces.
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Drew’s passion for gardening started with growing vegetables and salad in raised beds in a small urban terrace garden. He has gone on to work as a professional gardener in historic gardens across the UK and also specialise as a kitchen gardener growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, and cut flowers. That passion for growing extends to being an allotmenteer, garden blogger, and producing how-to gardening guides for websites. Drew was shortlisted in the New Talent of the Year award at the 2023 Garden Media Guild Awards.
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