Peach trees are fickle fruit trees that need plenty of water, sunshine, and proper pruning for optimum production. The shorter the branches, the more strength they have and less chance of snapping under the weight of the fruit. When pruning a peach tree, keep in mind that an open centre is the best shape as this allows the sunlight to reach most of the branches. The best time of year to prune is in February once the danger of frost has passed but before any fruit has begun blooming.
Begin pruning any fruit-bearing tree by preparing it for the major pruning. First, cut off any dead or damaged limbs. Avoid snapping them off with your fingers as this could result in damage to the good branches. Next remove the suckers growing off of the roots. Finally, remove any branches that extend above 8' to keep growth close to the ground for easy reach. Peach trees are usually 9 feet in height.
The next step consists of pruning shoots, which are the new, red branches. Remove any branches growing towards the centre of so that the peach tree retains its open centre. Also remove any small, thin shoots as these will not be able to produce healthy fruit. Avoid removing branches that are 18 to 24 inches in length. Prune any downward hanging branches or shoots growing horizontally. Ideally, shoots should grow at a 45 to 50 degree angle.
The last step of pruning actually occurs after the tree has bloomed and the buds have been established. Pruning some of the buds will produce larger, healthier peaches. Plus, an overabundance of fruit could break the delicate peach branches. Make sure that fruit grows only about 6 inches apart by pinching off buds by hand.
No pruning paint is necessary. Just make sure your cuts are at a downward 45 degree angle to the tree so that water cannot run into the trunk and cause rot. Wear gloves and long sleeves to protect from scratches.
Avoid over-pruning as this will seriously reduce fruit production. About 30 or 40 per cent of the tree should be pruned each year.