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Help! for my lopsided peach tree

 
Linda Ford
Posts: 32
Location: Southwestern New Mexico
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This is it's second spring, planted in the fall of 2012. The one branch to the south was broken off over this last winter.
It has set fruit and I am very worried about all the weight on the one side.
Should I stake it vertical or prune these branches back?

I live in SW NM, USA - high desert - lots of wind prevailing from the west.

Lopsided Peach 2015-04-14.jpg
[Thumbnail for Lopsided Peach 2015-04-14.jpg]
Lopsided Peach
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1556
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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It may have set fruit but it looks very spindly to support any kind of weight yet. Personally if it were my tree I'd be cutting it back considerably and thinning the fruit also (perhaps even removing all this year?). The long term viability of the tree is more valuable than one season's fruit.

Also, I'm not an expert but I think peaches need quite specific pruning to make sure there is always new wood for fruiting on. Look it up.
 
Linda Ford
Posts: 32
Location: Southwestern New Mexico
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I have read about the pruning but that seems to go against the admonition to leave trees in their "natural" state. How does a peach tree manage without all that pruning? As Paul would say: Before there were any people to prune it.

At this point, however, would pruning the long branches be helpful or harmful to its future growth and how severely? I don't think I would want to prune off all the leaves so it wouldn't be a "back to the trunk" cut would it? Cutting them back would seem likely to encourage more branch emergence but I'm worried about the timing/season. As this is already into the warmer season, do I need to worry about the open end of the pruned branch?

Removing the fruit sets seems prudent. But that leaves the question of removing the canopy that catches the wind or staking the tree itself, another treatment that permaculture seems to try to avoid. Maybe in this case, though... Is one central stake or 3 perimeter stakes advised, for how long? I was told to stake a tree for 3 years, but again, does that weaken the trunk? I also understand that as it has only been in the ground for 2 seasons, there probably isn't much in the way of a tap root to help stabilize it.

There is also a cherry tree not pictured that is leaning also but not as severely, though the wind in it's canopy could aggravate it's problem. I may use this advice to determine what to do about it as well.
 
Ann Torrence
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So many questions - is the tree grafted? What kind of rootstock (dwarfing?) What do you want out of this tree in it's normal productive lifespan?

1) Congrats on getting any fruit at all this year - most of the peaches here have been frozen out already, with this weird weather.
2) For this year, I would thin the tree to a few (2-4 fruits). See if you like them! But let the tree put a little more energy in our harsh intermountain climate into growing a scaffold before trying to get a large harvest.
3) Peaches produce on first year wood ONLY. How do you plan to promote first year wood? The idea of not ever pruning is going to reduce your useable fruit production on a per-tree basis. Is the tree suited to a no-prune regime (if a dwarf, probably not). That's a trade-off you'll get to decide on. If you want loads of fruit AND no-prune, you might need to plant more trees.
4) As you plant in the future, you might lean the trees a bit into the wind. Also, if you aren't growing from seed, consider looking for rootstock that has good "anchorage", which means good holding power of the roots and that a monsoon wind won't uproot a tree when it's fully. loaded with fruit.
5) The questions about how to stake really depend on the rootstock.
 
Linda Ford
Posts: 32
Location: Southwestern New Mexico
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Thanks to both of you for the replies. I'll have to look at it tomorrow to see if it looks like a graft but as it has a "type" name I would expect it will be. I had a local landscaper get them for me, so I'm not sure except it is not a dwarf. These were planted as 4' trees, so I would not be surprised if the roots weren't somewhat stunted. After I get all this in and there will be less ground disturbance, I'll start some seeds for the future.

This is one of 2 that are planted in a future chicken pasture along with a pear and a cherry (that got broken off when planted so is more of a cherry-stick which you can just see in the picture). You can also see the other peach in the far background. I don't mind some pruning as it is necessary but this needs to be pretty self-sufficient as I am getting older. I also don't need massive amounts of fruit that needs preserved (Ha), but I will be happy to share what I get with the chickens and the neighbors and freeze some. While I do want fruit, the primary purpose for the trees is to make guilds in order to hold more of the rain water in my arid locale, so canopy and leaf mulch are high on their job list. There are a few types of fruit trees scattered around this 1/3 acre.

We were "lucky" here in that the last freeze didn't get down quite this far. Most of NM did not fair as well. We are also predicted to be on the better side of precipitation, but you know we can never depend on that. Usually we are getting into the dry period by May. You can also see in the picture that I am adding new/more straw mulch. You cannot see the small hugle-burms by each tree or some of the initial guild plantings. This year I'll be adding some mid-size plantings for the guilds and more ground cover.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I would place some stakes so that the far right growth (in your photo) becomes the main stem, tie it just tight enough to straighten it over the next year.
You should reduce the number of fruits and support the branches with notched planks covered with some soft materials so as to not injure the bark at the support contact point.
In your photo, I can see the graft line just above your straw mulch, so it is indeed a grafted tree stock.

I would refrain from pruning just now, since you have fruit set.
By supporting the branches and training a new main stem now, when winter comes again you will be better prepared to make good pruning decisions.
The first few years of a tree like this are when you can shape it to overcome any issues. Then as it grows you will reap the benefits of giving it a proper shape.

 
Linda Ford
Posts: 32
Location: Southwestern New Mexico
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OK, That still leaves my question of one or 3 stakes. One stake would allow a few of tie locations but 3 stakes would allow a greater "bend." (?) Do I need to worry about the amount of bend in the trunk - ie. tying it fairly low? Even so, more than one tie location?

As to the supports, I do understand, however any free standing board is going to get blown down so perhaps it would be prudent to attach them (one for each branch?) to a stake (T-posts) as well rather than trying to bury one end?

You can tell I am new to fruit trees other than old ones that were already quite large and Peach seem to have some particular issues.
I am very grateful for your help with this and for this forum where I knew I would find responders. This is such a wonderful group.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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You would need three or perhaps even four stakes to tie to for straightening.
Straightening a tree is not a one shot deal either, you will be checking it every month or so and doing a little more at a time.
This is so you don't harm the tree you are trying to help.

I'd start low on the main trunk and work my way up every foot or so.
The real trick is to keep even pressure (and not a lot of pressure) and to really pad when needed so the bark isn't in danger of being cut into or ridged by the tie material.

branch supports need to be "planted" in the soil so they can't move much if at all.
T-posts could work for stabilizing the supports, just tie them to the T-post at more than one point so they are stable themselves.
 
John Wolfram
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Location: Lafayette, Indiana
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It might just be the angle the picture was taken, but it kind of looks like there is a nasty crotch angle where the two main branches separate. If the angle is steep, you might want to consider removing one of the branches so your tree doesn't self-destruct in a few years when it is carrying a heavy load of peaches.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Linda: Welcome to growing in a windy garden... It seems to me that the tree doesn't care if it is growing lop-sided or not.. If it bothers you then no harm done by straightening it, or by pruning more heavily on the leeward side of the tree. I find it easier and more in harmony with my world view to allow the wind and tree to interact with each other how they will. I care for a couple of apple trees that look just like your photo, but 30 years older. They grow and produce fine. Makes picking a joy to have the tree splayed out horizontally -- rather than reaching for the sky too vigorously.
 
Susan Pruitt
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Hi Linda - fellow old lady trying to build a homestead on her own here too

I'm by no means an expert, and have no experience in your climate, but it appears that your tree was pruned at the nursery if you haven't yet. That first row of scaffold branches seems a little too high, and wimpy at that. The top tier is much more leafy than the bottom, which makes it top heavy, hence more vulnerable to the wind. For that reason you may need to always keep it pruned rather short, but that will be desirable anyway if you don't want to climb a ladder for peaches when you're 80 - lol!

I'm with Ann and John, I'd concentrate on strengthening the tree this year, pinch off all but maybe one or two peaches for a taste test and treat this year Just feed, mulch, water all summer, hug it, and wait for next winter to do a heavy, strategic pruning. Here's one of the best demonstrations on pruning a young peach tree that I've seen.

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=how+to+prune+peach+tree&FORM=VIRE3#view=detail&mid=D6964CC4530531F54305D6964CC4530531F54305

best of luck!
 
Linda Ford
Posts: 32
Location: Southwestern New Mexico
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Thank you Susan, that was very informative and gave me a good basic understanding of the scaffold and multiple layering principals. I will still have to determine just how much pruning I want to do but even the minimal will require selection. I am pretty sure it was pruned at the nursery to eliminate the lower growth. I have read how they do that with most their trees. I don't know if it has a health component or just for most people's aesthetic but I knew that getting anything else was going to be very difficult in my area. My hope is to get these trees growing and the guilds in place and then add seeds & seedlings for the second generation which can be established more to permaculture principals without grafts, deep tap roots and low branches. But first things first.

I thought it interesting that he suggested not letting it fruit in the first year (or two?) to build a stronger form. That would suggest I pinch off much of the other tree's sets as well. I was going to lighten the load anyway but now I'll be more severe. I had planned on still watering regularly though perhaps a bit less intensely to force root growth (which may depend on the actual weather) and less fruit will mean less stress. It is a shame as so many years get no fruit that in a year with the perfect weather I'm going to restrict it.


Thanks Bryant, as that is exactly the advice I was hoping for. I feared just bending it over and leaving that big curve. I hadn't thought of using several lines and adjusting them over time. I have done that with house plants that wanted to stray out of their pots so I can see it would work here as well.

John, I see what you are saying, and after watching this video I better understand the options, so as I am worried about the weight of this side anyway that may very well dictate my selection. Thanks for pointing that out. I presume I should wait for the dormant season (late fall or winter...) to make that cut anyway? It sounds like there may be a decision as to which of the two leads will be taken off as the "lower" one might be favored to stay? Or would that close angle still be a problematic structure even without the other side?

Joseph, that was my first inclination too. I'm glad to hear someone else likes "interesting" tree shapes. I believe I will try to err on the side of balance this year, however, just to ensure the whole thing doesn't fall over before it can grow decent roots. I doubt it will ever be very symmetrical with this start and that is fine with me as it will add interest to the future stroll though the garden. I anticipate my windy conditions may do some other unplanned pruning in the future as well.

 
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