When should I prune nectarine trees?

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When should I prune nectarine trees?
Nectarines and peaches are similar in appearance. (Eising/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Nectarines and peach trees are similar in a number of ways, but each tree has its own individual needs. Pruning nectarine trees annually keeps them healthy and prevents a number of problems with pests and disease throughout the life of the tree. Nectarine trees produce more fruit when they are growing properly.

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Young Nectarine Trees

Prune young nectarine trees annually, beginning in the first year of growth, to establish a strong leader branch that will act as the primary trunk throughout the life of the tree. Nectarine trees produce a number of leader branches that will compete with one another, weakening the tree over time. Remove branches in the early spring, before the tree has begun producing leaves, to reduce the damage pruning does. Cut off competing leader branches and any broken or damaged parts of the tree.

Saplings

Nectarines require less frequent pruning as they age. Prune in the early spring before the nectarine puts out leaves and blossoms to make it easier to see where to make cuts. Remove branches that are dead or show signs of disease or damage to keep the tree healthy. Prune from the top of the nectarine tree as well to allow new growth to emerge and encourage the tree to grow taller. Opening the upper portions of the tree allows sunlight to reach the lower portions of the tree.

Maintenance Pruning

Maintenance pruning is occasionally required during the growing season, if a nectarine tree has been subject to severe physical damage from a storm, serious fungal diseases or a heavy pest infestation. Removing damaged portions of the nectarine tree helps get rid of the cause of the problems and keeps the tree from spreading diseases or other problems to other areas of the garden. Perform maintenance pruning as necessary during the year.

Benefits

Pruning helps create a visually attractive nectarine tree with balanced, even branches. Well-maintained nectarine trees produce more fruit and live longer, healthier lives with more productive years. Keeping nectarine trees free of serious pest and disease problems through pruning encourages good growth each year. New growth emerges from the areas of the tree that are pruned, helping the tree recover from its wounds and become even more productive after it has been pruned.

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