A few weeks ago, my brother-in-law asked me to come out to the family farm (Double S Farms) asked me to come over and help him to prune their numerous fruit trees. I had been wanting to work on them because they had been sorely neglected by the previous owners of the farm.
These three peach trees produced a large amount of fruit that we all enjoyed last summer. However, they had been badly pruned over the years and their branches reached so high into the sky, that it was impossible to reach all of the fruit.
Why did we decide to prune them you may ask? Well, besides the fact that they had been disfigured by bad pruning, the other benefits would be numerous. There would be increased fruit production, strengthened trees, earlier fruit production and easier maintenance.
Our tools – Loppers, Pruning Saw, Hand Pruners and Pole Saw.
The two types of pruning cuts that we used were thinning and heading cuts. The first type – thinning cuts, removes branches back to the larger branch they are growing from. So, we concentrated on removing all crossing branches and those growing into the center of the tree. We did this because peach and plum trees should have an open center.
The second type of cut we used – heading back, removes part of the branch, pruning back to a outward facing bud. So we made sure that our cuts, were pruned back to an outside facing bud and cut at a 45 degree angle.
Farmer Dad, working hard making a thinning cut with a pruning saw.
Pruning should be done while the trees are still dormant, which is January here in the desert.
Since dwarf forms of peach trees do not exist, pruning is the only way to shorten the tree in order to reach the fruit and also to be able to fit a net over the tree to protect them from the birds eating the fruit. Unfortunately, a lot of fruit was lost to the birds last year.
As we pruned, evidence of bad pruning was evident. The photo above shows an incorrect pruning cut, while the bottom one is the right way to prune. You want to prune back to the trunk to the branch collar.
Peach and plum trees can take heavy pruning, but we removed only 20% of the trees branches. Next year, we may do more if needed. We felt that is was better not over-prune and stress the trees.
You can tell why it is important to prune back to the branch when you see how the cut branch above died back because it was not pruned close enough to the branch it came from.
Once we were finished with the peach trees, we started on the two apple trees in the backyard. Both of these trees were better maintained and so we removed a few of the lower branches and made some heading cuts.
Pruning cuts back to the trunk. You can see the branch collar, which is a specialized area that surrounds branches. Do not cut the branch collar, but make your pruning cut just before.
Making heading cuts to the apple tree.
Apple trees only require light pruning. They have a different shape then peach trees and do not have an open shape. Rather, they should have many interior branches. So, the majority of pruning we did were some heading cuts and just a few thinning cuts.
You know, there is just something so fulfilling after spending the day pruning and seeing the instant results of your work. A couple of weeks later, I took the following pictures of the now flowering trees we had pruned.
Peach blossoms reach towards the sky.
The apple trees are now covered in blossoms.
Next year, we will probably do some additional corrective pruning for the peach trees in order to further fix the damage done by the previous owners. But for now, we are sitting back and enjoying their beauty and looking forward to peach jam and apple butter this summer.