Peach trees live relatively short lives, often dying after only 15 to 20 years. During the last few years, harvests naturally decline and older trees could stop producing fruit. If 20 percent or more of older trees in the peach orchard have failed, re-invigorating older surviving trees yields poor overall results. In that case, trees should be replaced rather than pruned. If most of the peach orchard shows good health, older trees could benefit from severe pruning.
Pruning Old Peach Trees
Cut out dead peach tree wood. Dead limbs show gray bark which flakes away easily with no green layer beneath. Prune all dead wood back to the next healthy junction. The branch collar -- the ring of healthy tissue at the base of the limb -- grows over the wound.
Remove all peach tree limb cankers. Use limb loppers or pruning hooks to remove limbs with obvious damage from fungal infection or peach tree borers. Either could be the cause of swollen and contorted sections of limbs. Cut back to the next healthy branch collar.
Prune out dead twigs. Cut dead twigs back to just before the next healthy branch junction. Dead twigs provide easy entry points for disease and insects and may damage adjoining healthy limbs.
Remove all crossed or broken branches. Limbs overgrowing other limbs open wounds in bark and interfere with sunlight and air circulation. Cutting out the least vigorous of the crossed branches opens up the crown of the tree.
Prune away all sucker shoots and hanging limbs. Sucker shoots grow vertically from roots, trunk and upper limbs. Suckers create dense canopies with very little fruit; those emerging from below the graft junction could overtake the grafted portion. Hanging limbs produce low quality fruit and interfere with orchard maintenance.
Cut back major limbs to three-year-old wood or even older. The outermost twig grew last year; the next section of branch dates to two years ago. Prune limbs back at least to the branch collar of two-year-old growth to force formation of new fruiting wood.