Now is a good time to prune fruit trees. The coldest part of the winter has passed and the trees are still dormant. Fruit trees need pruning every year to keep the trees healthy and to encourage the growth of new fruiting wood that is essential to ongoing production. However, very old trees or trees that have neglected for years should be considered for total removal.
As you prune the first objective should be to create a canopy of leaves that are well illuminated. Sunlight needs to be able to reach every leaf on the tree. No part of the canopy should be more than three feet from the edge of the tree. If possible the top of the tree should be narrower than the bottom of the tree. This avoids the top of trees shading lower portions of the trees.
Remove branches that are crossing and touching. Remove branches that are pendant or growing from the underside of other branches. These will always be shaded. Remove spindly and any branches that are diseased or damaged. It is preferable to remove entire branches back to their point of origin than to remove only a portion of the branch. These cuts cost less regrowth.
Peaches need to be heavily pruned. Peaches bear fruit on one-year-old branches so these need to be generated every year. Remove small caliper branches and branches on the underside of limbs. Think about how many peaches you wanted to harvest and prune heavily as part of the thinning process.
As you prune step back a few paces and take a good look at the tree. Is the canopy still dense and shaded? Will the light be able to illuminate every branch? The mistake most people make is to prune too lightly than not enough.
For more information about pruning fruit trees check out the fact sheets at extension.usu.edu.