Frequently Asked Questions About Peach Tree Maintenance

Peach tree
Peach tree (pruned properly)

When is the proper time to prune peach trees?

Peaches should be trained to the open-center system (upside down umbrella shape). Prune a newly planted tree to 18 - 30 inches above ground. Select three or four lateral branches with wide-angle crotches spaced evenly around the trunk. These will become permanent scaffold branches. The lowest limb should be about 15 inches from the ground at planting.

Peach trees should always be pruned in mid- to late February, after most of the freezing weather is past, and before trees leaf out. Pruning too early in the season encourages bacterial canker and the early death of a tree.

Peaches are vigorous growers. Prune to develop the open-center system, remove broken or diseased branches and remove vigorous shoots growing upward or crossing over inside the canopy of the tree. Contact your local county Extension office for a diagram on pruning peach trees.

When and what is the recommended fertilization schedule for peaches?

Early March application: Broadcast 1 cup of 10-10-10 per year of tree age to a maximum of 10 cups for mature trees.

August application*: Broadcast 1 cup of calcium nitrate or equivalent per year of tree age to a maximum of 4 cups for mature trees. Don't apply until all fruit is harvested.

(* A split application of calcium nitrate or equivalent should be applied during the summer for newly planted trees; 1//2 cup calcium nitrate in early June and again in early August.)

How can I increase fruit size on my peach trees?

To prevent limb breakage and ensure fruit quality, thin peaches about four weeks after full bloom, or after the natural "May" fruit drop. Hand-thin peaches about 6 inches apart on the limb.

What steps can I take to control disease and insect problems on peaches?

It's difficult to grow peaches in Alabama without a disease and insect spray program. This should begin with dormant sprays during the winter. More backyard fruit trees die from pests that could have been controlled with dormant sprays than from any other cause. For example, peach tree borers and scale are extremely damaging if dormant and special borer sprays aren't applied.

Use dormant sprays before green tissue shows in spring buds. Use on days when the air temperature is above freezing. Use a Superior Oil spray for the first dormant spray application in mid- to late winter. Three weeks later make a second application of Superior Oil or Liquid Lime Sulfur.

For dormant sprays and other pesticide application recommendations, request Circular ANR-50 Home Fruit Spray Guide from your local county Extension office.

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SOURCE: Mary BEth Musgrove, Extension horticulture associate, Alabama Cooperative Extension System (334) 844-5481.