Pruning and Training Young Trees
Visitors to our farm are often struck by the unique shape of the trees. A traditional landscape tree has a main trunk and grows according to the growth characteristics of that tree. Stone fruit trees perform best when they are trained into a "vase" shape from a young age. This allows the maximum amount of sunlight to reach the fruit.
Mature peach trees, shown here in the winter, with a typical shape.
Shaping the trees starts shortly after they are first planted by cutting back the main “trunk,” which is really just a twig at that point, to a height of about 18″ – 24.” This will force all new growth out to the side. We tie this new growth to bamboo stakes which have been secured in the ground. As the new shoots grow and mature into branches, they will follow the trajectory of the bamboo stake. We focus on creating 4 or 5 primary lateral branches with a wide, open shape.
Trellises are another method used to train trees. Here, the lateral branches are attached to wires running between V-shaped posts. The wires provide support for the branches as well as guiding the growth of the tree.
As the trees grow, they are pruned each year to maintain and refine their shape – always keeping the center of the tree open.
Every tree is pruned during the winter. Part of the pruning process is to maintain the height and shape of the tree. The other reason for pruning is to control the amount of fruit the tree will produce. Growth on each of the main lateral branches will be pruned to leave a specific number of secondary hangers. Hangers are one-year-old growth twigs which will bear fruit in the coming season. If you leave too many hangers, the tree will produce a lot of small fruit. The goal is to leave just the right amount so the tree will produce large, healthy fruit.
The trees on the left have been pruned; the trees on the right have not.