I'm from the Rochester NY area. So grateful this group/website is available. That being said, I have a peach tree whose limbs have been bent over by the weight of my peaches this past year. Is there a way that one can straighten out the branches. It is one of the most upright branches at the top of my tree that is now horizontal. Or would I be advised to just cut it out and learn or rather have the courage to thin my fruit.
Howdy, from the Blue Ridge in VA
Peach trees tend to grow in a splayed form. You’re right about having needed to thin, especially with a young tree.
Needing to view it in order to suggest anything specific, I envision it sending shoots up from the highest point of the branch bend next Spring. If you want the tree higher, I’d remove the end of the branch - just beyond the highest point of its bend.
Early and heavy fruiting really saps the vegetative growth of a young tree. Thinned very heavy next year, it’s stored energy should push up & out plenty of new up-right growth.
I’ve tied across between equal sized limbs, attempting to bring them up, but it rarely made for a decent limb. Once stunted, they’ll generally stay that way. But new growth is always up!
I’d allow for that, by protecting a few select limb shoots emerging next Spring from the trunk, thin the existing limbs to only a few fruit. When dormant, spread next years upright shoots the direction you want limbs … and keep those thinned well until strong enough to support a serious crop.
I think Viron answered it well as usual. It's hard for me to give advice on pruning if I can't see a picture of the tree.
I've talked to Jesse, the webmaster about trying to make it easier to post pictures. I find it enormously difficult to post them myself.
Four of my apple trees, on M26 rootstock, experienced the same condition. One of them was due to my inexperience, the others due to inaction (I did thin them, but obviously not enough). This must be what apple farmers call "runting out". I'm wondering, though, if apple trees on semi-dwarf rootstock can become dwarf in height while still providing semi-dwarf advantages.
One tree, Pink Pearl, was purchased in 2010 as a fairly large potted tree, and planted in 2012. It's now around 7 feet tall and produces abundantly every year. It's healthy and disease-free, except for almost no to a little scab yearly. I love the size; it's easy to manage, and apples can be harvested without the use of ladders.
GoldRush, and an unknown that was supposed to have been Winecrisp, were purchased bare root and planted in 2016. Both are around 6 feet now and produce well, with no disease.
Chehalis was a large potted tree, planted in 2016. It's around 7 feet and is also disease-free. It may be starting a biennial habit, since it produced only a few dozen apples this past summer. Last year I cut the central leader, near the bend, expecting a new one to start growing; so far this hasn't happened. Since Chehalis is described as a shy bearer, will this compound the problem and lead to significantly less apple production as the tree matures?
I now have 4 healthy dwarf apple trees with the benefits of semi-dwarf rootstocks - better drought resistance, better anchorage, etc. Aside from possibly the Chehalis, they are producing plenty of apples for our family. Obviously long-term repercussions are unknown to me, maybe shy bearers should be excluded, and I'm now paying close attention to thinning fruit adequately. But it's an interesting experiment, nonetheless.
as i just mentioned on another post, i have moved more and more to training as a corrective measure when possible, in addition to just pruning.
in cases like you describe, where the branch has been weighed down to a weaker horizontal or downward angle, if the branch is at all flexible i have success with tying it up to a more 60 degree angle (and still pruning as you would anyway to encourage lateral growth). after a season or so the new shape is firmed in and you can remove the tie. of course, knots that avoid throttling the branch are essential.
just a thought.
Tying up the central leader makes a lot of sense, while it's still flexible. It's curious why sometimes the central leader is flimsy on younger trees, even without fruit set. This has happened with M106 rootstock, but not with the smaller rootstocks.
Training young trees doesn't seem to be discussed as much as pruning, but it should be. Both require an "eye" for what needs to be done. I'm still figuring that out.
I suspect the necessary hormone that suppresses growth below the terminal bud is missing from the bent over branch. Thus envision it sending more side growth than vertical growth if tied up or straightened.
A good opportunity for a test: try straightening, aiming, and securing the bent branch upward; if any ‘sucker shoots’ form from the trunk, allow one to grow straight up for the full season. Then choose the best candidate to form your desired structure.
Tying and relying on the recovered vigor of a stunted limb has failed with my every attempt … as I suspect from the hormonal deprivation described.
I very much agree with your thoughts about training being a neglected subject. I’ve led Extension Service pruning classes, but have always felt there’s a serious need for summer training classes. If you ever get into it, tip-pinching to form fruit spurs and multiple branching of a single stem during the growing season is amazing