How to prune nectarine trees?

Pruning A Nectarine Tree – Learn How To Prune Nectarine Trees

Pruning a nectarine is an important part of taking care of the tree. There are a number of reasons for cutting back a nectarine tree each with a specific purpose. Learning when and how to prune nectarine trees along with providing irrigation, pest and disease management and proper fertilization, will ensure a long life for the tree and a bountiful harvest for the grower.

When to Prune Nectarine Trees

Most fruit trees are pruned during the dormant season – or winter. Nectarines are the exception. They should be pruned in late early spring to allow for an accurate assessment of flower to bud survival prior to pruning.

Pruning and training a nectarine should begin the year of planting and each year thereafter to develop a strong well-balanced framework of scaffolds.

The goal when cutting back a nectarine tree is to control its size to make it easier to maintain and to pick fruit.

Pruning also helps develop a strong limb structure and opens up the tree so sunlight can penetrate the canopy. It is also important to remove any excess fruitwood, encourage budding and to remove any dead, broken or crossed branches.

How to Prune Nectarine Trees

There are several methods to pruning fruit trees. The preferred method for nectarines is the open-center system, which opens the tree up to sunlight and fosters maximum yields with the best quality fruit. The goal is to create a tree with a strong trunk and well positioned side branches along with maintaining a balance between vegetative growth and fruit production.

Once you have planted the tree, prune it back to around 26-30 inches (66-76 cm.) in height. Cut off all the side branches to leave a shoot without any lateral branches that is 26-30 (66-76 cm.) inches tall. This is called pruning to a whip, and yes, it looks drastic, but it creates the best shaped open center tree.

In the first year, remove any diseased, broken or low hanging limbs as well as any upright shoots that develop on the main scaffold. In the second and third years, again remove any diseased, broken or low hanging branches as well as any upright shoots developing on the inside of the tree. Leave smaller shoots for fruit production. Prune the vigorous upright branches on the scaffolds by cutting them back to an outward growing shoot.

Continue annually along these lines, cutting back low hanging, broken and dead limbs first, followed by the upright shoots along the scaffolds. Finish by lowering the height of the tree by pruning the scaffolds to an outward growing shoot at the height desired.

Breaking news

Kate Marshall demonstrates how to prune a vase shape.

Pruning is a word that strikes terror in many a gardener’s green heart, but it really shouldn’t.

Done properly, pruning is one of the most important skills for a gardener to master. It helps solve all sorts of growth, habit and performance problems for plants, and generally improves their health and vigour.

But done badly – or without a clear purpose in mind – pruning can cause problems too, so before you pick up a pair of secateurs it’s best to have a clear idea of what you are wanting to achieve, when is the best time to act to achieve it and how the plant you are pruning is likely to respond.

Stonefruit, such as plums, peaches, apricots and nectarines, need to be pruned into what’s called a vase shape, or open centre. Having an open centre, which effectively means removing the main trunk, helps with air flow to reduce pest and disease build-up and allows easier access to blossoms for bees for increased pollination. Without an open habit, dense branches will be shaded and will not crop prolifically.

* How and when to prune apple, pear and cherry trees
* Tips for pruning without spreading disease
* 8 things to do in your orchard in autumn

Most young stonefruit trees bought from a garden centre will have the central leader and many branches. Choose the strongest four or five branches that are evenly spaced around the trunk and at around the same height as the core framework. Consider the height of the branches – go for higher branches to allow for easy mowing underneath, or lower branches to make it easier for kids to climb and pick fruit.

Pruning is a way to increase your stonefruit crops.

Once you have selected the branches you want to keep, chop the trunk immediately above the highest branch – making the cut on an angle to allow moisture to run off. This might be drastic action for some trees, cutting the tree in half, but be assured, this is truly the best for the tree and its productivity.

Obviously these fruit trees, while related, have their own specific requirements too.
* Peaches and nectarines produce flowers on previous season’s growth, so don’t prune all the tips of the tree in winter as this is where the flowers and fruit will be borne in the coming season.
* Apricots mainly form fruit on two-year-old wood called spurs. These spurs will be productive for two or three years so don’t remove them until they no longer produce fruit.
* Plums and plumcots are generally pruned into a vase shape, but the variety of plum will influence where the fruit is mainly produced.

European varieties (that’s Prunus domestica – including damsons, greengages and prune varieties) form fruit mainly on semi-permanent spurs, with a small amount on the previous season’s growth.

Conversely, Japanese varieties (Prunus salicina – including ‘Elephant Heart’, ‘Fortune’, ‘Santa Rosa’, ‘Satsuma’ and all plumcot varieties) fruit mainly on previous season’s growth, with a light crop on older spurs.

So keep tabs on the variety to make sure that you don’t inadvertently prune off the fruit-producing wood. Or if you are unsure of the variety, take a good look at the tree when it’s in fruit – if the crop is mainly around the outer edges of the branches it’s most likely a Japanese variety. If the fruit is mainly on short spurs coming off the main branches, then it’s more likely a European type.

* How to grow figs in New Zealand
* How to grow avocado in New Zealand
* Grow fruit in your backyard: beginner’s guide

NZ Gardener

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How To Prune Your Fruit Trees

Within a few years of lovingly planting fruit trees, most folks find themselves with scraggly overgrown bushes, rather than the Garden of Eden they had envisioned. The key to keeping fruit trees attractive and productive is annual pruning.

Worry not, pruning is not the brain surgery it has been made out to be. Curmudgeonly Master Gardener types may tell you that different fruits are pruned in different ways, which is true to an extent, but there is a simple three-step process that works for the vast majority of fruit trees.

Outside of the tropics, most of us are dealing with pome fruits (apples, pears and quince) or stone fruits (peaches, cherries, apricots, plums – anything with a pit). This three-step method works for both.

Though summer pruning is not harmful to the trees, winter makes things easier. Without the tree’s foliage, you can really see what you are doing.

STEP 1: Clean Up

Start by pruning away any wood that is dead, damaged or diseased – a.k.a. the three D’s.

Are sprouts coming from the base of the trunk? If so, remove them – technically they’re called ‘suckers’ and they originate from the rootstock rather than the fruiting variety grafted on top.

How about suspiciously straight sprouts growing from some of the main branches? These erect, perfectly vertical branches, or “watersprouts,” – should be removed as well.

With all these clean-up cuts, it’s important to prune the branches back flush to the larger limb they’re growing from – don’t leave little stubs.

STEP 2: Thin Out

The goal of thinning is to allow light and air into the canopy, which boosts fruit production and reduces problems with pests and disease.

First, remove any branches that grow downward, toward the center of the tree or that cross paths with another branch.

Once these are out of the way, stand back and take a look. The goal is to have evenly spaced branches splaying out in a pleasing, fractal-like pattern from the center.

Do you see places where multiple branches compete with each other? You might find two or more growing from a single crotch at a narrow angle, for example, or from different points but in a parallel fashion, one hovering over the other.

If so, thin out all but one branch, retaining the branch with the healthiest appearance and best crotch angle (roughly the 2 o’clock or 10 o’clock angle from the center of the tree). Wider angles can break when laden with fruit and narrower angles lead to bushy growth and fruit that is too high to pick.

Next, continue to thin the tree until there is a good 6 to 12 inches of air space around every branch. The smaller the branches are, the closer they can be to each other.

As with your clean-up cuts, all thinning cuts should be made flush to the branch.

STEP 3: Head Back

The last step is the easiest – you’re basically giving the tree a haircut.

The idea is to prune back the outermost growth of the tree so the branches become shorter and thicker as they grow, rather than long and gangly. This keeps them from snapping under the weight of the fruit, but pomologists (fruit scientists) will tell you that it also causes the tree’s hormones to activate growth lower in the canopy, making for smaller, more fruitful trees.

Heading back the tree means cutting off 20 to 30 percent of last year’s growth. You can distinguish last year’s growth from two-year-old growth by the wrinkly ring of bark encircling each stem. Depending on the vigor of the tree, this may be anywhere from two inches to 4 feet back from the tip of each branch.

Unlike the previous steps, these cuts will be made part way into each branch. Exactly where you make the cut is important, too. Prune each branch back to a point one-quarter inch above a bud that faces the direction you want that branch to grow in the coming year. If there is another branch close by on the left, for example, prune back to a bud on the right side of the branch.


  • Sharp shears make for clean, easy cuts – if you don’t know how to sharpen your own, many neighborhood hardware stores often offer the service for a small fee
  • As a measure of disease prevention, dip the blades of your pruning shears in solution of isopropyl alcohol for 30 seconds to disinfect them before moving on to prune another tree
  • Clean up the pruned wood from around the tree and dispose – especially if it contains any diseased material

Brian Barth formerly lived in America’s fruit basket, aka California, where he ran an edible landscape design company, but moonlighted each winter as a fruit tree pruner.

How to Cut a Peach in Only 15 Seconds

posted July 24, 2018 by Sarah // 12 Comments ”

Learn the trick on how to cut a peach into slices in only 15 seconds! Clingstone peaches and nectarines can be a pain to cut; this tutorial will help you life hack stonefruit cutting.

Right now I’m picturing Nicolas Cage saying “I could eat a peach for hours”, and then I’m picturing John Travolta AS Nicolas Cage practicing saying the same thing.

Oh, Face Off. You’re a classic.

The farmer’s market had the first peaches of the season this week! I snapped up a few juicy organic ones, came home, and quickly was disappointed to find out they were clingstone peaches.

Clingstone peaches are the drunk friend at a party kind of peach; they just don’t make life easy for you. The stone or pit of a clingstone peach won’t easily twist away from the fruit like a freestone peach will. Both kinds are super delicious, but clingstones are high maintenance.

I’ve developed a fast way to cut a peach in only 15 seconds and I really want to share it with you. Because nerdy life hacks own my heart.

Do You Need to Peel a Peach to Eat It?

Nope! The peach skin is perfectly safe to eat and helps contribute to the yummy 2.3g of fiber you’ll find in a peach.

With that in mind, please note that conventionally grown peaches and nectarines are on the dirty dozen list of most pesticide-laden produce. If it is in your budget, peaches and nectarines are best purchased in organic form.

How Do You Peel a Peach Easily?

It involves a quick dip in boiling water and then an instant cool down in an ice bath. This term is called blanching and you can read more about it in this post on canning peaches.

How Long Can I Store Cut Peaches in the Fridge?

Personally, I’ve found they get a little slimy after two days. Cut peaches won’t brown so there is no need to treat them with lemon juice or citric acid.

How to Cut a Peach (Clingstone)

  1. Wash your peach (duh). Make one circular cut through the peach, starting and ending at the stem.
  2. Just like you’re cutting a pie or pizza, make another cut through the whole peach, starting and ending at the stem. Then make, two more cuts until there are four circular cuts through the peach, rendering it to eight sections.
  3. Starting at the stem, take your paring knife, and cut down, around the stone/pit towards the bottom of the peach.
  4. In only 15 seconds, you’ll have eight beautiful peach slices ready to eat!

Want to see it in action?

Impressed? Underwhelmed? Either way, I have a peach to snack on, so if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be watching Face Off. And maybe to make it a doubleheader, Con Air. I had them both on VHS.

Because I’m awesome.


Making this recipe or others?

Post a photo on my Facebook page, share it on Instagram, or save it to Pinterest with the tag #sustainablecooks. I can’t wait to see your take on it!

Print 5 from 4 votes How to Cut a Peach Prep Time 1 min Cook Time 1 min Total Time 1 min

Learn the trick on how to cut a peach into slices in only 15 seconds! Clingstone peaches and nectarines can be a pain to cut; this tutorial will help you life hack stonefruit cutting

Course: Snack Cuisine: American Keyword: How to cut a cling peach, How to cut a freestone peach, How to cut a peach Author: Sarah Cook – Sustainable Cooks Ingredients

  • 1 Peach


  1. Wash the peach.

  2. Make one circular cut through the peach, starting and ending at the stem.

  3. Just like you’re cutting a pie or pizza, make another cut through the whole peach, starting and ending at the stem.

  4. Then make, two more cuts until there are four circular cuts through the peach, rendering it to eight sections.

  5. Starting at the stem, take your paring knife, and cut down, around the stone/pit towards the bottom of the peach.

Freezing Strawberries {How to Freeze Strawberries} Learn all the tips and tricks for freezing strawberries to extend the harvest. You can freeze fresh strawberries without knowing any special kitchen skills (like canning). Check out this recipe How to Segment an Orange and Other Citrus Learn how easy it is to segment an orange in this step by step tutorial. You too can make gorgeous clean-cut wedges of delicious citrus to use in salads, desserts, and snacks.

Check out this recipe Freezing Peas Learn the tips and tricks for Freezing Peas to extend the harvest. Learn how to freeze peas to preserve this springtime veggie with or without blanching. Check out this recipe Canning Peaches {How to Can Peaches} An easy step by step tutorial on Canning Peaches. This recipe for how to can peaches is perfect for beginners and experienced canners alike. Check out this recipe The Ultimate Homemade Peach Ice Cream Like a bowl full of summer, the Ultimate Homemade Peach Ice Cream recipe will blow your mind with flavor. Check out this recipe Peach Moscow Mule {Moscow Mule Mocktail} This Peach Moscow Mule is a crisp and refreshing non-alcoholic version of the famous Moscow Mule. Juicy peaches and blackberries make this Moscow mule mocktail insanely delicious. Check out this recipe

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

This recipe was originally published in July 2014. It has been retested and updated with reader feedback. New photos have been added and the directions have been clarified. For reference, this is one of the photos from the original post:

originally posted on July 24, 2018; Updated on August 14, 2019 Categories: Breakfast Recipes, Gluten-Free Recipes, How To Tutorials, Snack Recipes, Vegan Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes, Whole30 RecipesJess Lessard Photography/iStock/GettyImages

How to Eat a Nectarine. Sweet, juicy nectarines, loaded with flavor and nutrition, are one of the best things about summer. Nectarines are very similar in flavor and appearance to peaches, except that the skin of nectarines is smoother and has no fuzz. Nectarines are also slightly smaller and have a spicier taste than peaches.

Choose a ripe nectarine and eat it fresh. You can cut it into fourths, remove the pit and place the pieces in a bowl and eat them with a spoon, or you can simply eat a nectarine like an apple. Just be sure to wash it first and keep plenty of napkins on hand for the sticky juice that escapes.

Cut a nectarine into several pieces and place it in a bowl with a bit of cream or half-and-half. Sprinkle the nectarines with brown sugar if you like, but you may find that the nectarines need no added sweetener.

Mix small slices of nectarine with yogurt or use them for a topping on frozen yogurt or ice cream.

Make nectarine jam or jelly if you have a large number of nectarines. Nectarines won’t keep long, so nectarine jam and jelly is a perfect way to preserve them.

Select some ripe nectarines and freeze them for winter. Nectarines are easy to freeze and will taste like summer in the middle of winter. Pack them in a syrup made of sugar and water and store them in plastic containers or zip-seal bags.

Make a nectarine pie or cobbler. Your favorite peach pie or peach cobbler recipe will work beautifully with nectarines.

Don’t cut off the fruiting wood: Pruning lesson number one

The first time I pruned a plum tree, I climbed into it and started snipping off stubby branches that looked good for nothing. They were kind of in my way too, snagging on my shirt. Hmm, the plum tree didn’t flower much that year. It set only six plums in total. Pruning lesson number one, learned the hard way: Don’t cut off your fruiting wood. Fruit trees don’t just grow their fruit anywhere and everywhere, you know? Go out and have a look at your trees. Here in early March is a perfect time to get to know their habits, as they’re all flowering or about to start, and they all flower in slightly different places. Are the flowers at the tips of branches or are they along the sides? Are they on long or short branches? Are they on old, thick branches or young, thin branches? Plums, Apricots, and Pluots As I learned the hard way, plums flower mostly on stubby branches that you might be inclined to cut off. It so happens that apricots flower in a similar style — on “spurs,” the stubby branches are called.

Apricot spurs swelling with flower buds.

Same tree a month or so later (last year). Notice that most of the apricots are growing on spurs, not along the sides of long branches.

Pluots flower just like plums and apricots, mostly on spurs, but all three do flower somewhat along the sides of long branches as well. Apples and Pears Apples and pears flower, and so grow fruit, mostly on spurs too. But rather than flowering along the sides of long branches in addition, they flower in clusters at the very tips of long branches. Here is an example on a Fuji apple:And here are flowers at the tip of a long branch on a Fan-stil pear:So then, the mistakes you’d want to avoid while pruning apples and pears would be cutting off spurs as well as cutting off the tips of branches. Peaches and Nectarines Finally, we come to peaches and nectarines. Take a look at this Red Baron peach in full bloom last March:See how it’s got flowers all along the sides of long, skinny branches? Peaches and nectarines don’t make spurs. They flower almost entirely on long, skinny branches that grew the summer before. These branches have bark that is red and green. Here is an example of a branch with red bark (whose underside is green):Here is another branch on the same tree (Snow Queen nectarine). It will produce little to no flowers because it’s old. Note the gray color of its bark:Don’t be deceived by the thickness of a peach or nectarine branch: sometimes a younger branch is thicker than an older one. The color of the bark tells the age, which tells you how much it’s likely to flower and fruit. Red with a green underside means it’s got that potential, so don’t cut it all off. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t cut off any fruiting wood. Pruning always entails removing some fruiting wood. We should just be aware of when we’re cutting off fruiting wood by noticing where our trees flower. Check out your citrus, avocados, pomegranates, cherries, and whatever else you have too. Take advantage of this dynamic moment in the year to gain a more intimate understanding of where your trees grow their delicious fruit. And when it’s time to prune next, you won’t unwittingly chop off those ugly little branches that snag on your shirt. I never did it again. At least I learned my lesson. You might also like to read my other posts about pruning deciduous fruit trees: My best advice on pruning deciduous fruit trees: Keep them small Where to cut a branch on a deciduous fruit tree Pinch to shape young fruit trees Summer pruning deciduous fruit trees Think about sunshine when pruning deciduous fruit trees Should you prune a bare-root fruit tree? And you might also like to read: Pruning avocado trees When and how to prune citrus trees

Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

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Pruning Fruit Trees

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Principles
  3. Pruning and Training at Planting Time
  4. Training the Young Nonbearing Tree
  5. Pruning the Mature Fruit Tree
  6. Summary of Rules for Pruning Bearing Trees


While the principles of pruning fruit trees do not change, the actual practices used in modern production systems vary. The higher density-supported training systems now used by commercial growers are managed by the same principles of pruning used in the past. Before embarking on a specific training system for high-density plantings, investigate specific techniques required for training and pruning that system.


Pruning Dwarfs Trees

Numerous experiments show that pruning is a dwarfing process, that is, it reduces the total size of the tree. Leaves are the food-manufacturing organs of the tree. Cutting away a live branch, which if left would have borne leaves, reduces the output of the “factory”, and the final result is a reduced bearing area. Summer pruning has the greatest dwarfing effect.

Pruning Appears to Invigorate Trees

There is a certain deception in the effects of pruning, in that strong shoots with large leaves tend to rise just at the back of pruning cuts. This gives the impression of increased growth. Pruning reduces the number of growing points, thus stimulating an increase of growth at the remaining points. However, pruning, in proportion to its severity, reduces the total growth and the total leaf surface of the tree. (Invigorate trees when necessary with appropriate fertilizer use.)

Pruning Effect is Localized

The removal or cutting-back of the laterals of a branch reduces the growth of that branch. Pruning has the direct effect of producing growth response in the immediate area in which the cut is made.

Pruning Too Heavily Has Several Ill Effects

Excessive pruning, by over-stimulating growth, causes loss of fruit colour, delayed fruit maturity, and growth of suckers and watersprouts. Excessive succulent growth increases the hazard of fire blight in apple and pear, canker in peach, and winter injury in all species.

Pruning the Young Tree Delays Fruit Bearing

Because pruning tends to force the growth of long, succulent shoots that grow late in the season, manufactured food is not allowed to accumulate in sufficient quantities to cause the formation of fruit buds. Consequently, the tree is kept in a juvenile or nonfruiting condition for a greater number of years. Young trees often grow very upright, and become so dense that the grower is tempted to thin-out the branches. It has been shown, however, that early fruit bearing will open out a tree much more effectively than pruning. With the young tree, remember: light pruning, early bearing, a spreading tree (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Central-leader type of tree. There are 7 main branches distributed vertically and spiralled on the trunk and attached by wide, strong crotches.

Clean, Flush Cuts Heal More Quickly

Make pruning wounds flush with the limbs to which the unwanted branches are attached. The exception to this rule is with peach. With peach use a collar cut rather than flush cuts. Wood healing is more rapid when the bark ridge at the base of larger limbs is not removed during a pruning cut. Where one-year-old wood is being pruned, make the cut as close as possible to a bud to facilitate healing. A stub and/or ragged edges at these points greatly delays the healing of the wound and increases the probability of drying out and infection. This is particularly important with peach because canker may enter where healing is delayed.

Narrowed-Angled Crotches are Weak

Where the crotch angle is less than 35 degrees the attachment will be weak because of the inclusion of bark. The tissues in narrow crotches (Figure 2) are slower to mature in the fall and may be injured by low temperatures, especially in test winters. Narrow crotches are usually further weakened by water, ice, rot organisms and canker. Thus, remove limbs that make sharp angles early. This avoids possible loss of a large part of the tree later on due to breakage from weight of fruit.

Figure 2. Structure of wide (a) and narrow (b) crotches. The narrow crotch is structurally weak and contains a bark inclusion (arrow), an entry point for insect or diseases (modified from Cornell Agr. Expt. Sta. Bull. 419, 1923)

Pruning and Training at Planting Time

When new fruit trees are dug in the nursery, a large percentage of the finer root system is left behind during the process. The new tree that once had a balance of leaves to roots now develops more leaves than there is root system to sustain. The resulting tree will be out of balance, resulting in poor growth.

To overcome this problem, heavily prune all fruit trees at planting time before growth starts. Remove at least � of the potential leaf area. Eliminate all branches below 60 cm. If the tree is tall enough, cut back the leader to about 80-90 cm, and remove all shoots. With well developed trees or older trees having some limbs you wish to retain, you can cut these limbs back to 2 or 3 buds and retain growth in that area. Totally remove limbs:

  • with poor crotch angles
  • that are too low to the ground or
  • large limbs approaching the calliper of the central leader.

Consider the pruning at planting time and over the next 2 or 3 years as a training process. The final strength of the tree depends upon the wise selection of branches and your ability to maintain the proper balance between these branches. Mistakes made in this formative period may mean weak trees and, in addition, the correction of errors may call for severe pruning in later years – the removal of considerable portions of the bearing area and the creation of large wounds subject to infection. It is critically important that you build a strong framework in the early years.

The central leader training system is recommended for all fruit trees. This tree “Christmas tree” form is conical in shape, with a wide base and a narrow top. During the early life of the fruit tree, keep this tree with judicious pruning. Some trees, particularly sour cherry, peach and Japanese plum, do not retain a dominant central leader for long. This is not a problem. The central leader tree at maturity consists of 6-8 main scaffold branches distributed vertically and spirally around the trunk (Figure 3), and with the topmost branch (leader) well in the lead of the lower ones.

The vertical distance between limbs occupying the same quadrant of the tree will vary from 10-80 cm depending on the ultimate size of the tree. Limbs too close together will result in excessive shading. This weakens the limb and leads to poor fruit quality, reduced productivity and ultimately failure of the shaded limb.

If the branch angles at the main trunk are sufficiently wide (over 35 degrees), there will be no bark inclusions in the crotches, resulting in a strong tree.

With many cultivars the central leader will slow in growth, making removal or heading unnecessary. Keeping the central leader in the early years encourages wider angles on the framework branches below it. The central leader of dwarfed trees will be lost prematurely if allowed to fruit too soon.

Figure 3. It is extremely important to build a strong framework in the early years.

Training the Young Nonbearing Tree

The less pruning during this period, the more quickly the tree comes into bearing. Consequently, once the main branches are selected, do minimal pruning until the tree is bearing. An early crop of fruit, besides bringing early financial returns, slows down vegetative growth and bends down the branches. This aids in controlling the height of the tree, and opens up the tree to permit more light and better spray coverage. Guard against too-early fruiting of the central leader.

Prune lightly in the third and fourth years, chiefly by thinning-out rather than heading-back. Generally avoid heading-back from the second year, until the trees are in heavy bearing.

Remove branches that form narrow crotches (less than 35 degrees) with the trunk. Eliminate branches that grow straight up or into the tree, those that are weak and drooping, and those that tend to cross or otherwise interfere with others.

Six or 8 main branches are usually sufficient to build a good tree. With pear varieties susceptible to fire blight, and where fire blight is likely to be serious, prune especially lightly and leave more framework and secondary branches.

Pruning the Mature Fruit Tree

Dormant Pruning

Most pruning is done when the trees are dormant, between the time when the leaves drop in late fall and when the buds begin to swell in early spring. The safest and best time is just before the buds swell. The most risky time is very late fall and early winter. Dormant pruning of peach and nectarine increases the risk of winter injury; prune during the bloom period.

In the orchard, start spring pruning early enough to be completed before the leaves appear. The risk of winter injury increases if pruning is begun too early. Pruning followed by low temperatures means winter injury – not always seen but almost sure to be present. The amount of injury is directly related to the length of time between the pruning operation and the temperature drop; the shorter the time, the greater the injury.

All pruning has a dwarfing effect, but dormant pruning produces the most new growth. If you want new vegetative growth, dormant pruning is the way to get it. The harder the cutting, the greater is the response in new shoot growth. The response takes place in the area of the tree where the cuts are made.

Pruning During Bloom

Most growers prefer not to prune peach and nectarine trees until the flower buds have advanced sufficiently to assess the flower winter survival. Delaying pruning much beyond shuck split may cause a serious loss of tree vigour.

Early Summer Pruning

Pruning has the greatest dwarfing effect in June and early July. If you wish to reduce vegetative growth and prevent shoots developing, this is the time to prune. But remember that early-summer pruning has a very dwarfing effect. It first dwarfs the root system, and then the whole tree.

Midsummer Pruning

Pruning at this time of year has little or no effect on stimulating new vegetative growth. At the same time, it is not nearly so dwarfing as early-summer pruning. The root system is dwarfed somewhat but only moderately, as compared with the results of early-summer pruning.

This may be the time to reduce the height and width of your trees by cutting back the new growth. The amount of cutback would depend on the growth, vigour and age of the tree. A well-grown tree with a good crop could have new growth reduced by 1/2 to 2/3. This will let in more direct sunlight to colour the fruit. It will also reduce vegetative growth, which makes more sugars available to the developing fruit, and results in improved flavour, although fruit size may be reduced.

Fall Pruning

Pruning cuts will not heal at this time of year, but in order to spread the work load over more time, some pruning might be started in early fall. Start with the oldest trees, and cease all pruning operations well before any chance of a severe temperature drop. Do not prune peach and nectarine trees in the fall because of the ever-present threat of canker.

Summary of Rules for Pruning Bearing Trees

  1. Cut out broken, dead, or diseased branches.
  2. Where 2 branches closely parallel or overhang each other, remove the least desirable, taking into account horizontal and vertical spacing.
  3. Where possible, prune on the horizontal plane; that is leave those laterals on the main branches that grow horizontally or nearly so, and remove those that hang down or grow upward.
  4. Thin all varieties to permit thorough spraying and the entrance of sunlight and air.
  5. Where it is desired to reduce the height of tall trees, cut the leader branches back moderately to a well-developed horizontal lateral.
  6. Prune the lower branches of broadheaded or drooping varieties to ascending laterals.
  7. Varieties that tend to produce numerous twiggy, lateral growth should have some of this growth removed to prevent overcrowding.
  8. Make close, clean cuts. Stubs encourage decay and canker, thus forming a source of injury to the parent branch or trunk.
  9. Prune moderately. Very heavy pruning is likely to upset the balance between wood growth and fruitfulness, and generally should be avoided.
  10. Prune regularly. Trees that are given some attention each spring are more easily kept in good condition than trees that are pruned irregularly.
  11. Prune that part of the tree where more growth is required. This is particularly important with old trees. New growth will be stimulated only in those parts of the tree that were pruned. Reduce pruning to an absolute minimum where growth is already excessive.
  12. Do not remove a branch unless there is a very good reason for doing so. Leaves are the food-manufacturing organs, and if the leaf area is reduced unnecessarily, the tree will be reduced in growth or fruitfulness or both.

Peach and nectarine trees

Beautiful spring blossoms and sweet, juicy fruit make peaches and nectarines favorites for the home garden. The trees look alike and have the same cultural needs; the main difference is that the fruit of peaches is fuzzy skinned, while that of nectarines is smooth.

The many peach and nectarine varieties tend to be adapted to specific regions; one kind or another can be grown in the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, central and lower Midwest, Southwest, temperate Great Lakes regions, California, and dry-summer areas of the Pacific Northwest and intermountain West. There are extra-hardy selections suitable for parts of the Northeast. To decide on the best peach or nectarine for your area, consult a local nursery or your Cooperative Extension Office.

Most peach and nectarine varieties need 600 to 900 hours of winter chill. In mild-winter areas, choose those with a low chill requirement. Most kinds are self-fertile.

A standard peach or nectarine grows rapidly to 25 feet high and wide, but pruning can keep trees to 10 to 12 feet. A number of genetic dwarf selections are available, ranging in height from 4 to 10 feet.

Training and pruning

Peaches and nectarines are best trained to an open center.

Mature trees need more pruning than other fruit trees do. They produce fruit on 1-year-old branches; severe annual pruning renews the fruiting wood.

Each dormant season, remove a quantity of wood equivalent to about two-thirds of the previous year’s growth. To do this, prune out any weak or crowding new growth; then head back the remaining branches to staggered lengths, so that fruit will form throughout the crown. Cut back some branches by one-third, others by two-thirds, and the remainder nearly all the way. Keep the center open by removing any vigorous shoots growing through the middle.

Pests and diseases

Peach tree borer is the most serious pest. It tends to attack stressed trees, so prevention through good growing conditions is the best control. Diseases are usually more of a problem in humid, mild-winter regions than in areas with dry, hot summers and chilly winters. Ailments you may encounter include peach leaf curl and brown rot of stone fruit.

To control brown rot, prune trees to improve air circulation; also collect and dispose of diseased fruit. For chemical controls and timetables for treatment, contact your Cooperative Extension Office.

Fruit Tree Pruning Guide

Not all fruiting plants require an annual prune, and some new dwarf cultivars of apples, peaches, apricots and nectarines have been bred to eliminate the need for annual pruning and maintenance.

Why prune:

  • To reduce the size of the tree, to allow for easier picking and harvest.
  • To increase the yield – pruning encourages fresh new stems, and therefore an increased harvest.
  • To allow more sunlight and air movement into the plant: a small bird should be able to fly through the centre of the tree. Improved air movement prevents pest and disease problems developing and more light encourages even ripening.
  • To remove dead and diseased branches and stems.
  • For a desired shape.

When to prune:

  • Apples and pears – prune every winter to ensure a good crop of fruit the following season. Note that sometimes due to seasonal fluctuations, pears become biennial fruiters, fruiting better every second season.
  • Feijoas, olives, figs, Chilean guavas and citrus – prune after harvest finishes. In cold areas, don’t prune citrus until after the frosts have passed. It is not necessary to prune every year.
  • Nectarines, peaches, almonds and plums – prune in summer or autumn. These fruits don’t need pruning every season, and it’s important not to prune in winter as it can spread the spores of silver leaf, which is these stone fruits are prone to.
  • Grapes and kiwifruit – prune in winter, back to 3-5 buds and tie back any long new branches or canes to train into shape.
  • Cherries and blueberries – do not require a lot of pruning, other than to shape and to remove dead or diseased wood. Both fruit on the same wood for years. The best time to prune is after fruit appears in summer or autumn.

How to prune:

  • Prune on a dry day, to limit the spread of fungal spores and diseases.
  • Use sharp secateurs to make clean cuts on an angle, above a bud or branch.
  • Prune lightly rather than excessively.
  • Remove all clippings and prunings and dispose of dead and diseased material.
  • Clean tools after use.
  • Spray deciduous fruit trees in winter with a copper based spray to eradicate over wintering diseases. Spores can over-winter and are spread by air and moisture, as well as tools.

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