Is It Possible to Rehabilitate An Old Peach Tree

by Sam T.
(Houston, TX)

I recently moved into a home with a peach tree in the back yard. From the looks of it, it hasn't been cared for in years. It is very tall and most of the fruit is at the top. I picked a few pieces and it was wormy.

Is there any hope for this tree? Or should I give up my dreams of tree ripened peaches?

Thanks.



Answer

There is nothing like the taste of a peach right off the tree. Store bought just doesn't compare.

It may be possible to rejuvenate the tree if it isn't too old. Peach trees only live about 15 years, so if the tree is more than 10 or 12 years old, it may not be worth the effort.

If the tree is young enough that you feel it's worth investing the sweat, here's what you can do:

1. Remedial pruning in early spring while the tree is dormant. Cut out all water sprouts (branches that grow straight up), remove anything that is growing below the graft union, remove all broken or crossing branches. Remove branches growing into the center of the tree. This will open up the center to light and air. Lastly, shorten all remaining branches by two thirds.

I know this sounds severe, but peach trees require heavy pruning each year to keep them compact and productive. If you don't shorten the branches enough, the tree will get too tall again and all the fruit will be out of reach.

2. Clean up any weeds or grass growing around the trunk. They compete with the tree for available water and nutrients.

3. Peaches need to be sprayed with a fungicide twice per season--at pink and at petal fall. Apply the first spray when the buds begin to show color. Apply the second when the flower petals fall.

Whenever I remembered to do this, my peaches were worm free. Whenever I forgot to spay, they were wormy. I'm not sure why.

4. Don't go crazy with the fertilizer. Peaches are rank growers in any case. Just give the tree a balanced fertilizer (it doesn't need to be anything special)in the spring and again in the summer. Judge by its growth whether you dare feed it a third time in the fall. I never fed my tree more than twice a year and it always bore lots of fruit.

I hope this helps you realize your home grown peach dreams.


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