May is the best month for pruning peach and nectarine trees. This post is for bush trees,( yes they are hardy enough in most parts of the UK), fan trained trees can also be pruned now, the principles are the same except the tree is flat ! I will post separately on Fan training.
Trees that were planted early in the Autumn will by now be growing strongly and it should be obvious where most pruning cuts need to be. There is one overriding rule to remember when pruning peach and nectarine trees in May – Fruit is ONLY borne on the second year wood, consequently you need to be able to replace this each year with fresh, strong shoots that will carry the following years fruit.
Shoot tips- are they growing strongly ? Those that are, leave well alone .
Weak, spindly shoots need to be taken off completely.
Those with ‘blind wood’ (a length of wood behind a shoot with buds which have not opened or grown) need pruning back to just above the second strong side shoot.
By doing this you will also have now taken out any wood that has die back on it, leaving you with healthy vigorous shoots that will be ready to carry next years crop.
The bush tree pruning is now nearly complete – simple really, one other consideration is the access for picking fruits in the centre of the bush at harvest, remember that the light and sun will need to ripen the fruits and the picker will need to get into the centre to collect the fruit so leave space for both by thinning out any overcrowding branches that cross into the centre of the tree.
Thinning the fruits is a two pronged affair, the first few will be taken off by pruning as above, also check for twins, these will need to be singled out or neither will ripen properly, then check that all the remaining fruits are at least 4″apart.
Second thinning is done after the fruit reach thumbnail size, there may by now have been a small , natural drop, but you need to go over the tree thinning to 8″ – or a hand span apart.
Trees that are not growing vigorously will need looking at to assess the reason, are you feeding? with what , and how often do you feed your tree ? Peaches are very heavy feeders and can look chlorotic and pale if left alone. Consider foliar feeding with Seasol seaweed or a liquid feed to the roots as a temporary measure, then get some slow release pellets onto the soil as soon as you can and water them in well.
Have I explained this in a way you can get to grips with ? Let me know so I can edit if needed.