I have a couple of semi dwarf peach trees which are 4 years old and
which are in bloom at the moment . Today I noticed a couple of small
dead branches on them which I missed pruning in late winter . Can I
prune them off now or is it too late in the season for this ? I heard
not to prune when trees are in bloom . Also there might be a very light
frost next week (down to 32 degrees ) Will this hurt the blossoms and
if yes what can I do about it ??
Please help !!
Rosie z5 in IN
You can prune dead wood anytime it wont hurt the tree at
all. You dont want to prune a tree that has sap flowing.
Sorry but I cant help you on the lite frost part of the
question other than to say if I were you I would take an old
sheet out and lightly wrap it around the tree the night
before the expected frost and take it off as soon as it
I certainly am *not* an orchardist; however, it would make sense to not
prune when the trees are in bloom so as to *not* knock off blossoms.
Without blossoms, there is no fruit. (This is aside from the dormancy
Regarding the time of year, I suspect it is too late to properly prune
since that is to be done when the tree is dormant (late fall to late
winter/early spring) when there is no significant activity in the
branches/limbs. I would interpret that to mean absence of any
leaves/buds/blossoms which indicate sap is flowing.
A very logical deduction, too. However, most fruit trees like peaches and
plums suffer from TOO MANY BLOSSOMS. The traditional winter pruning has
to be followed by a spring thinning, where much of the developing fruit
is pulled off the tree to allow the remainder to grow to a larger size. If
this is not done, then the tree may give you a thousand peaches no bigger
than a cherry. The winter pruning routine probably came about because it's
a time of year when the orchardist has nothing else to do. Trees can indeed
be pruned in early spring when they are in full bloom, just remember to
give right of way to the bees. A big advantage of spring pruning (quite
apart from avoiding the cracked lips, chillblains, and pneumonia) is that
while pruning you can knock/snip off excess blossoms, leaving just enough
that with your experience of expected pollination will allow a tree to bear
a desired load of fruit. For example, plum trees I prune may have up to 30
blossoms in a bunch where I want no more than 2 plums to hang and develop
to desirable size. So I just snip off about 20 of the flowers, and then
later in spring am left with many fewer fruit to thin off. Spring pruning
means that the tree has wasted energy in twigs and blooms that are going
to be cut off, but winter pruning means that the tree then wastes energy
in starting off lots of young fruit that are going to be pulled off in
the thinning process. So it's swings and roundabouts.
Nowadays, commercial orchardists apply sprays that cause chemical thinning,
it's less manpower intensive.
John Savage (news address invalid; keep news replies in newsgroup)
Prune dead wood off as soon as you notice it. The sooner you do it,
the sooner the tree can grow over the wound.
Don't get hung up on pruning only during the dormant season. When a
tree is young and you want it to get on with growing up to full
size, dormant pruning is the way to go. The tree can then put its
energy into the branches that remain. Prune lightly and just enough
to direct the growth toward the final shape you want for your tree.
(Probably open center for a peach.)
Once the tree is a good size, you can consider summer pruning. By
letting the tree leaf out before you do some of the pruning, you
will get less regrowth. The tree has already wasted its excess
energy on the growth you prune off. This helps control the size of
the tree and often improves the fruit buds that form for next years
Summer pruning should be done right after the season's growth is
about finished, or before. Don't prune later in the summer because
there is always a little regrowth and late new growth will not
mature enough to be winter hardy. With a semi dwarf tree (or any
tree for that matter), you don't HAVE to summer prune. I'm just
giving this information to let you know you are not breaking some
sacred law if you see something you want to prune after growth
starts. Don't worry about loosing some flowers to pruning. Peaches
set far too many fruits and should be thinned anyway (unless that
late frost thins most of them for you).
Several years ago, I had 4 or 5 young plum trees coming into full
flower for the first time. There was a frosty morning in the
forecast and I was worried. At dusk, I went out with a big kerosene
heater and placed it on the ground between the trees, closer to one
that I especially wanted to get fruit on. The next morning, the
grass was all frosty except for a big circle around the heater. It
seemed to work pretty well. You might consider some heat source for
the pre dawn hours if you really want to protect the blooms. Having
said that, if the flowers are open now, the bees have probably
pollinated most of the flowers. After pollination is done, the
flowers can take a light frost and still produce a fruit.
I hung some Christmas tree lights that heated up (not the "cool" ones). I
don't see any peaches, but the temps dropped to 26 F so I am afraid they
Next year I am going to prune them in late March, rather than February.
Peaches bloom on new growth. I hope later pruning will delay the blooming
long enough to allow a crop.
An electric heater will also work under your trees if it isn't too cold, and
I have even Circled a tree in plastic with a heater inside. The heat went
up into the plastic and kept the tree warm enough.
The professionals use smudge pots. I don't know what they are or how they
work. Maybe you could check into it.
Putting a lot of water on the ground under what you are protecting will also
help, as long as the temp doesn't drop too low.
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