Pruning California peach trees in the fall or early winter when they have lost all their leaves, encourages growth and the health of the tree. Pruning, both corrective and annual pruning, makes for a more attractive tree as as well as one that produces higher-quality fruit.
Peach trees that have been neglected, or that have been pruned incorrectly may need corrective pruning. This is best done in the winter or very early spring when the tree has no leaves. In California, peach trees are usually pruned in January. Clean up the tree, removing any left-over fruit, twigs, dead branches and leaves. Because peach trees bear fruit on 1-year-old wood, they need to be pruned more severely than most other fruit trees. They should be pruned so light can reach the bearing branches and so most of the old wood is removed.
Peach trees should be pruned annually. If they are not, they will become diseased and may not recover. In their first three years, heavy pruning encourages fast growth in peach trees. Annual pruning should take place in January, in California, the same as corrective pruning. This pruning stimulates growth and produces full, leafy trees with plenty of healthy fruit.
How to Prune
Peach trees should be cut 1/4 inch from the bud where it attaches to the trunk. Small horizontal branches left unpruned will grow fruit the next year. Cut vertical branches so more sun can reach the rest of the tree. Most of the pruning should be at the top of the tree for this reason as well. Peach trees do best when you remove 50 percent of the previous year's growing branches.
Care of Cut Limbs
Peach tree cuts do not require the use of a sealant. Allow the wounds to dry in the air. Avoid the use of a nitrogen fertilizer for a year following corrective pruning, which is usually heavier than normal annual pruning. Peach tree branches attach to the trunk with a collar, called a bud. Do not damage the bud when cutting the branch. Make a clean cut, just above the bud.