Q: What does the open center system of pruning mean? We have a peach tree that is six years old and need to know how to best prune it.
A: The “open center” method of pruning a peach tree results in a tree that has a short central trunk with three or four main limbs radiating outward. The effect is like a wine glass: a short stem and an open bowl above. The open center allows sunlight to hit interior peach limbs, causing them to bloom and make fruit. An unpruned peach will have a shaded center and comparatively fewer fruit.
The process starts the day you plant the tree: you shorten it to belt buckle height. New limbs sprout outward from that height and are pruned regularly to maintain an open center for the tree.
For a mature tree like yours, I recommend you remove the top at a height of six feet. Visit the tree in late spring to see how much sun reaches the interior. With regular pruning, try to achieve full sunshine on the central branches for at least four hours each day.