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I am a mother, a teacher, and a nature lover. I grew up on a mountain we called Owls' Knob in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The first seven years of my life were spent living in a log cabin, far from a store or streetlight, without electricity or running water and after twenty years of travel, I returned to the abondoned homestead. Now I live on a hill by a small lake and work at a public garden. These are stories about nature written from a women deeply influenced by place.

Monday, March 5, 2012

How Do I Prune Neglected Peach and Pear Trees?

Peach Buds Blooming

Pear Tree in need of attention
Neglected Pear Tree
When we bought the house in Fayetteville, a selling point for me were the five neglected fruit trees out back. I suddenly owned five fruit trees, one pear, one cherry, and three peach trees. I didn't think about the fact that I knew nothing about caring for fruit trees.  I read that the cherry might be just fine with or without my care. Apparently cherries don't need a lot of pruning. So I have done nothing to that old tree.
Ozark pears trees are hearty and live a long time; however, this pear tree is a massive mess of branches all clustered together. All the branches shoot up, few branch out. I am not sure how to approach it. Should I cut most of these clustered branches? I don't want to cut too many. Please leave comments below if you have any ideas.
After a particularly harsh summer, with long droughts and high heat, the peach trees were near death. I gave them water to keep them alive in late summer. I also mulched the soil around them heavily in fall with good topsoil and leaves. I read a few different chapters from various books on pruning fruit trees. Basically, I take it that peaches need lots of pruning, don't live or produce fruit for long, and are not hearty. These poor trees might be a lost cause; nevertheless, I am giving it a shot.
Wire cutters for pruning
Peach Tree after pruning dead wood
Before spring began to make the peach buds blossom, I went out with a pair of dull pruning shears, a saw, and a pair a wire cutters. The wire cutters gave me the cleanest cut. I began by just cutting away the dead wood. The more I cut, the more I realized that just pruning the dead wood was going to cut the peach tree down to size. It seems like the peach tree pruned itself, killing off the wood that needed to go. But now that most of the branches are gone, the peach trees are not in the right shape. Still, if I cut more they won't have any branches left. I really don't know if the peach trees will survive. If they do, I doubt that they will produce fruit. Nevertheless, they are blooming and beautiful right now!

If anyone out there knows any tips about bringing back neglected fruit trees please leave a comment!


  1. You want all limbs not touching others. Look and decide which limbs are affecting others. When they are dormant is the best time to prune. I would wait for this year's crop to visit and then sculpt the shape you want by removing limbs that interfere with others. If you cut a limb back, cut it at a top bud so the new growth grows up and not down.

  2. Thanks, So I shouldn't do anything to the pear tree now? I guess I missed my window, too bad. I hope they make it another year!

  3. The Peaches are looking great now. Lots of peaches on every limb but I am going to pluck a lot of them since I read that a few big peaches is better than lots of small ones.

  4. The peaches are looking in prime, but like Gail said you don't want any limbs touching at all. Great post, remember to keep us updated.

    -EverGreen Tree & Shrub Inc.

  5. The peach trees produced lots of plump peaches this past summer. They looked healthy but were not ripening. Then all at once they were gone! Every last peach disappeared! Not one was left on the trees. No peach pits or pieces were left on the ground. Nothing! I can't really figure it out. Maybe it was a family of raccoons? Or a herd of deer? Or some homeless guy? I guess raccoons is my best guess. Regardless, I think I will need to fence in my yard before next year.