How to thin peaches...

16 February, 2014

This may seem a bit late, given I've already harvested all my peaches.

But as some of you may recall, my parents have a fabulous very late cling-stone yellow peach which I have pilfered for preserving.

Traditionally my dad and I have fierce discussions over how this tree should be both pruned, and the relative merits of thinning fruit-lets.

My dad is of the opinion that 'pruning' means lopping off any branches that break because they become overloaded with peaches. Other than that, nothing.

I disagree. I feel that 'pruning' should be done yearly in summer, and involves cutting back last year's growth by about two-thirds, to at least a half centimeter thick branch, and an outward pointing bud.

My dad believes that thinning fruit is a waste of time.

I disagree. (I know, who would have thunk it?) I think thinning fruit is essential to ensure branches don't break under the sheer weigh of peaches (oh what a lovely thought when I have young trees which barely produce anything) and also helps to direct the trees fruiting energies into producing bigger and more luscious peaches.

Yesterday, while I was over at their place for lunch, I had the luck to convince my dad to let me experiment, in the name of blogging, with thinning the fruit on some branches and not others, to see which method produces better peaches.

The pruning argument will have to remain unanswered. For now.

This is the peach tree.

It sits in a corner of the veg patch, and has been there for at least 15 years. I think it is in good need of re-shaping, as its a bit awkward to get to the top and rear branches. What is the point of a peach if you can't pick it? An age old philosophical argument.

Yet again the peach has set numerous fruit. They are developing well, and appear right on target for ripeness in late March-April.

You can see just how bent over this branch is by the multitude of peaches. I expect without any intervention this branch would split and break long before the peaches ripen.

So thin I did.

I thin to around a 10 cm space between peaches. Obviously I try to keep the best looking and biggest peaches, and thin the damaged, small and those growing in spaces which when ripe will be rubbing on branches or are otherwise not ideal.

Before thinning:

After thinning:

At least a hand span between fruits is a good idea.

Overall this meant a lot of fruit which will not be making it to full grown peach-hood.

There were maybe 100 peaches in there. They all went in the compost, as I don't think there is anything that can be usefully done with peaches that under-ripe.

It seems a pity and a waste, but it will be better in the end.

Et voila. The thinned (and lightly pruned, but don't tell my dad) tree.

The un-thinned branches are the ones right in the top rear (that I couldn't reach) and you can't really see in the photo.

But in a few months we should see if the hour or so's work was worth it.

Then the thinning argument can be put to rest. Until next year.


  1. I'm with you (not that we grow decent peaches), but it's heartbreaking if the tree snaps under the weight of its fruit. I promise I won't tell your Dad ;-)

    1. Yes, so sad! Cheers for keeping the secret :)

  2. "I feel that 'pruning' should be done yearly in summer, and involves cutting back last year's growth by about two-thirds, to at least a half centimeter thick branch, and an outward pointing bud."

    Wow! That's quite a bit. Do you find it reduces next year's fruit crop? With the dry, hot summer we've just had, I'm resolved to do some drastic fruit tree pruning this year, but I expect it will be at the expense of the next crop.

    1. It does sound like a lot, but it leaves plenty of fruiting branches that are strong enough to hold up big luscious peaches.
      I don't think this pruning style reduces fruit, but I haven't tested it so I don't know for sure.
      I feel a pruning trial coming up... :)

  3. it is sad to see those potential-peaches, just for composting, but you have to remind yourself you'll geta better crop in the end.
    i was surprised by your dad's views on pruning. i thought i all men loved to prune trees back hard, and at every opportunity they got!!

    1. Yes, it seems counter productive, but will be better in the long run. I hope!
      My dad must be the exception to the rule :)

  4. And the remaining peaches now have space to become huge peaches without all the competition. Can't wait to see how beautiful they end up.

    And looking at that beauty I really really want a peach tree.

    1. Too true!
      I know, I now want another one! I'm sure there are some warmer variety peaches, the daleys fruit tree website is pretty good on that sort of thing. Maybe in a pot if space is tight?