Trimming Thinning, Pruning and Girdling Peach Trees 55 years Experience

   The main purpose of trimming, pruning, fresh market peach trees is to increase light interception and reduce excess fruit buds. If a lot of light is allowed to penetrate the lower area of the tree, it will insure continued production there. A peach tree naturally wants to grow tall which causes serious shading to the bottom of the tree thus killing the lower buds and even the lower limb structure. For this reason annual pruning of the primary scaffold limbs at the top of the tree are vital to maintain a healthy tree. I have seen many schemes where the trees are allowed to grow tall thus producing excellent yields on young trees and that is impressive for a few years but the bottoms always suffer in later years due to the lack of light penetration. I believe one is then left with the majority of the production high in the tree. A good friend and peach grower in Pennsylvania, Lee Spencer, says "You are going to grow 6 feet of peaches, do you want to grow them down here or do you want to grow them up there"?                                            

     I trim severely in early spring making a lot of detailed cuts to greatly reduce the number of fruit buds thus promoting larger fruit produced by the remaining buds. In today's market place growing large fruit is profitable and growing small fruit is generally not. I believe that drastically lowering the bud count before bloom is important as a heavy bloom is pretty to look at but I think it greatly saps the strength of the tree reducing fruit size at harvest. Many growers would rather "wait and see" what the weather is going to do and etc. and then do their bud reduction after bloom. I prefer to take a little risk and do the right job up front as the worst possible scenario is probably reducing the crop load too much but then having huge fruit to sell as opposed having small fruit from the "wait and see" method. Another scheme that I like is to plant peach varieties that have a lighter bud set of strong reliable buds which renders large fruit naturally without a lot of wasted labor doing the menial task of thinning fruit.

For many years now most growers in most states prune very hard leaving only pencil size, new wood, to produce fruit. In addition to that practice Colorado growers are now cutting off about 60% of the pencil wood which eliminates and additional 60% of thinning which I believe to be a great practice.


PF 5D Big, PF 8 Ball, PF 9A-007, PF17, PF24-007,and PF 28-007 with all other Flamin' Fury® varieties best cultured with a little more pruning. 


    I firmly believe that early thinning of fresh market peaches is much more beneficial than later thinning. I also think this is particularly so with varieties which mature early in the season. Thinning early varieties at the traditional time, when the fruit is about 3/4" in diameter, is not as effective as it is for later varieties. It seems that earlier thinning by some more drastic means is much more appropriate on pre Redhaven time varieties. Chemical and mechanical thinning at bloom time are two options as well as severe pruning. I like simply using my thumb, pushing it the full length of the limb knocking off all of the tiny peaches on the very top side of every limb at shuck split and then do a little touchup work at normal thinning time when thinning the very early varieties. I have also found it advantageous to not fertilize very early varieties as fertilizer makes them ripen later and then fertilize them immediately after harvest to keep the trees in good shape for the next year.

    When my son, Brenden, was 6 years old, many years ago, someone gave him a wiffle bat and ball set for his birthday at the start of thinning time in Michigan. I looked at the bat with a crazy idea and went outside to the nearest peach tree and started flailing away. I soon went back inside and demonstrated this great technological advancement to my father and I have been knocking off the majority of peaches on heavy crop years ever since, following up with touchup hand thinning a few days after. The Herald Palladium newspaper took my picture out in the orchard with the bat over my head by a peach tree. The photo and story hit the A.P. wire and was reprinted in other peach areas including California, thus many growers picked up on the same method. I have since refined this great invention by selecting the thinnest, longest, hardest bats for my thinning arsenal. This primitive method has sufficed for a long time but I think to achieve the desired size in today's markets earlier thinning is much better. I have tried various types of chemical thinners over the past 40 years and found all of them to be very unpredictable on peaches. I am, however, going to apply various thinners this year in a very conservative manner. I am going to apply them from the ground up by turning a single fan type spray nozzle straight up on my weed sprayer, adjusting the pressure so that the spray only goes about 1/2 way up the tree. My thinking is that the poorest fruit grows at the bottom of the tree, it is smaller and has less color and flavor, so I do not see a lot of risk. This method knocks off the potentially poorer fruit early helping the crop load of the total tree and leaving the shell crop, where the best fruit is usually found. I may add two electronic eyes, one for turning it on after entering the canopy of the tree and one for turning it off before leaving the canopy of the other side of the tree. Two researchers that I am in frequent contact with, Dr. Esmaeil "Essie" Fallahi in Idaho and Jim Pitts in Alabama have done a lot of experimental work using the chemical Tergitol as a thinner and the results look very promising. Dr. John Cline has been having positive results using gibberellic acid as a thinner at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Most recently Dr. Tara Baugher and Dr. Jim Shoupp have been studying the use of various mechanical thinners during bloom in Pa. which looks very promising and removes bloom rather than peaches which greatly helps gain greater fruit size at harvest.


    Recently there has been the development of a way to girdle peach trees without cutting the bark so as to cause very little, if any, damage to the tree. 2 small thin plastic cable ties are applied tightly, 3" apart on scaffold limbs at pit hardening time. This causes fruit to mature about 4 days earlier, have better flavor and be larger. I am trying this method this year on 70 trees of PF1, my earliest peach, so as to be the first with home grown peaches at my farm markets in Chicago.







One of 4000 trees top worked over to a 3rd generation testing of a new Flamin' Fury® cultivar

     The Best Peach list for Mid Atlantic orchards (08) by Jerome Frecon, of Rutgers Cooperative Extension, lists 11 Flamin' Fury® varieties and 2 Stellar varieties.

In article on the web titled "Stone fruit varieties: peach, sweet and tart cherries, and plums"  Dr. Robert Andersen  states " I am very high on Paul Friday's Flamin' Fury® varieties. I've tested them head-to-head with Stellar® Series varieties for 15 years.

This series if often mis-spelled so when searching please also look for Flamin Fury and Flaming Fury peaches.

The Flamin' Fury® Peach Series Now Offers  U.S. and Canada Growers the Ability to Harvest the Best Peaches Available, Throughout Their Growing Season, for 15 Weeks. 

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