Pruning principles Peaches & Nectarines
As with all stone fruits, peaches and nectarines should never been pruned when they are dormant (during winter) due to their susceptibility to canker and silver leaf. The trees should never be pruned when it is raining as this can spread the spores. If pruning more than one tree, disinfect secateurs to prevent passing on potential infections.
In terms of pruning, both peaches and nectarines can be treated in the same way as their flowering and fruiting habits are the same. Both form fruits on the wood produced in the previous year. The pruning technique is sometimes referred to as ‘replacment’ pruning as it consists of replacing older branches with new growth from the current year. Pruning involves looking towards the future – one year in advance of the current year
Initial training as a fan
- The cheapest way of obtaining a fan-trained peach is to train it yourself. Select a feathered tree. (feathered means with laterals.) and remove the central leader in the spring cutting back to the highest of two lateral branches one on either side of the plant. Train them onto canes attached to wires, angling the branches to about 45 degrees. The two branches are sometimes referred to as ribs. They should ideally be about 40cm above the ground. Remove any other laterals.
- Prune the ribs back by about one third to an upward facing bud. This will stimulate buds to break along the pruned branch.
- In summer, tie in the shoots that are growing at the tip of each rib to extend their length. Select about three or four new shoots that have branched out along the ribs and cut the others back to one bud / leaf. One shoot can be tied downwards and a couple upwards.
- The following early spring, this new growth can then be cut back by about two thirds to stimulate new growth. The basic structure of the fan is now complete, with about eight ribs / branches.
Pruning & Training an established fan
It is best to buy a partially trained two or three-year old fan from a garden centre or nursery as this will save both time and money. There should be at least 8 branches on the partially-trained fan. These should be spread out evenly over the wall-space, with four branches on each side and tied to canes, attached to wires on the wall.
- Pruning should begin in early spring when the plant is in growth. Leave all the swollen, fat buds that will become this years flowers and subsequently the fruit.. Identify the vegetative buds or shoots as they will bear next year’s crop. Leave one new shoot towards the base of the branch and another one halfway up the branch. The shoot at the base will be used for next year’s replacement. The second shoot will be used as a back-up in case the shoot near the base fails. The terminal bud (in the tip of the branch) can also be left. All other emerging shoots should be removed – except for those surrounding the fruit buds / flowers.
- The new shoots should be tied in as they grow. In early June, pinch back all secondary growth to one leaf. The shoots that were left in step one should be pinched back to about six leaves. The terminal bud can be allowed to continue
- After harvesting, in late summer, prune out some of the older wood and some of the laterals that fruited last year. Tie in some of the new growth from the current year as replacements as these will be the branches that produce your crop the following year. Remove any excessive shoots that are overcrowding the fan and also any diseased wood growing if there is enough room.
This article is an extract from Carol Klein’s Grow Your Own Fruit & is used with permission