Greenhouse-Trained Peach ‘Duke of York’


This post is a record of my attempt to fan-train a peach tree on the brick wall of my unheated greenhouse. The post is updated each year to show how the project is going.

UPDATE: In August 2022, I undertook radicle corrective pruning and changed my whole approach, swapping from a fan-trained structure to some version of an “upright fruiting offshoot”. This is covered in page 2 of this article.


How it all started

I purchased my peach tree (‘Duke of York) as a bare-root, part-trained fan, on February 23rd 2020 to grow against the south-east facing wall of my unheated lean-to greenhouse.

I had left it rather late to order online finding most suppliers had sold out. But after a bit more internet digging, I came across Southern Fruit Trees. Turns out, they are a fantastic trained-fruit tree nursery: a small two man team, growing all of their own stock; knowledgable and dedicated. What’s more they are only a 40 minute drive away from me at Liss, West Sussex. As it happens, they are just a stone’s throw from Blackmore nurseries where many of my original fruit trees came from. Southern Fruit Trees, it turns out, actually supply Blackmore! I highly recommend this nursery: they are knowledgeable and helpful.

I drove over to Liss and was delighted to find Southern Fruit Trees packed with well grown, and very reasonably priced, fruit trees. A couple of hours later and I was back home with this lithe young fan-trained peach. As you can see it has had excellent initial training with lots of whip branches all laying in a neat fan-shaped plane, ready to plant, prune and tie in.

I dug a good hole, added some Rootgrow mycorrhizal fungi and backfilled with soil enriched with bone meal.

Once in, I cut back each shoot by one third. This stimulates new growth and ensures the framework stays dense. Left unpruned, the new growth would come mainly from the terminal buds leading to a lot of extension growth from the tips of the tree with only weak growth lower down each stem.

Next, I tied in each shoot to an initial framework of canes. Bending down the branches like this encourages buds to break all along the shoot and ultimately will lead to a bushy and fruitful tree. This early training will set the shape of the tree for years to come.

Three weeks later: bud break, and the first flowers appear. If I’m wise I won’t let these form fruit this year. But I am tempted to leave a couple.

MAy 2020 [update]

By early May, there were many shoots emerging from the side branches. As expected the strongest shoots come from buds closest to the main trunk and closest to the top. Later, these will need cutting back and/or tying in.

June 2020 [Update]

By mid-June the new shoots were pushing forwards into the greenhouse and the whole thing looked more like a shrub than a wall-trained tree. I cut out most of the long vigorous shoots that emerged close to the trunk, including the new ‘central leader’ which was trying to take over. It was 3ft long and had many strong side branches! I should have taken a ‘before’ photo so you could see what I mean, but I didn’t think of it at the time, so here is the ‘after’ photo…

Summer pruning this year was focused on establishing the permanent framework.

I then tied in the new extension growth that had sprouted from the tips of the shoots that I had previously trained on the canes. Looking at how the fan is developing it is obvious that the bulk of the energy has gone into the top branches, and the lower ones have grown the least. This is why traditional fans start with just two branches — one either side — to prevent the upper branches dominating. Whether this will actually be a problem in the long run, I don’t know. To some extent, fruit training is always an experiment, so watch this space!

Peach Fan — pruning plan

Establishing the framework
(first few years)

As explained above, I started with a partly trained fan, which already had several side shoots. I had to make a decision whether to cut this down to just two side branches (one on each side) or to retain more. I opted for the latter, and trained in five branches on either side. This may not have been a good idea – time will tell – as the upper branches will tend to be the more vigorous and in time the lower ones may decline in vigour, potentially leaving unfruitful areas of wall lower down. I tend to counter this possibility by keeping all shoots at a low angle for the first few years to reduce the vigour.

At this stage my aim is to create a well-balanced framework of permanent branches which spread as far to each side as possible. This involves the following steps:

  1. In summer remove any shoots that are growing from the main trunk or from the lower part of side branches close to the main trunk. (These can be cut back to two leaves or taken right back to their base)
  2. Remove any shoots that are growing towards the wall.
  3. Tie in extension growth (shoots that have grown from the ends of the main branches) to the canes.

    As the main branches get longer there will be space to create additional framework branches which fork off above and below to use the extra wall space:
  4. Choose strong shoots (e.g. one above and one below the main branch) and tie these in to new canes so that they continue the framework, filling in space between main branches. Aim to keep their angle below 45degrees if possible.
  5. Any remaining side shoots can be tied in as fruiting branches for next year. They can be shortened by one third.

Renewal / Replacement Pruning for fruit
(subsequent years)

Once the main framework is established pruning will switch to ‘replacement pruning’ which is the method used for peaches. Peaches fruit on last year’s shoots, i.e. on one year old wood. Therefore, once a shoot has produced fruit, it is unlikely to do so again. The requirement, therefore, is to remove shoots that have produced fruit and tie in new fresh shoots to replace them.

So the routine will become:

  1. After harvesting, cut out shoots that have produced peaches, cutting them back close to a new vigorous shoot.
  2. Tie the young shoot into the framework in place of the one that had fruited. It will fruit next year.

Late JUne 2020

Well that was a surprise! I was checking the leaves to make sure they didn’t have any insect pests… and they didn’t… when I spotted this little fella…

How did I not notice this a couple of weeks ago when I did the summer pruning?

JULY 2020

July 7th: it’s ready. So proud… had to take lots of photos…

It proved to be every bit as delicious as it looked. It was very juicy and overall delicious – as good as any shop bought peach. The only negative was that it was a bit uneven with one side being rather over-ripe and the other side being a bit under ripe. I think next year I need to cut or tie back foliage that shades the fruit so the sun can get to it more evenly.


SPRING 2021 [Update]

One year after planting it, here’s how it’s doing…

March 2021

April 2021

Over the next six weeks the peach put on a huge amount of growth, with shoots projecting forwards up to 3 ft from the wall. You couldn’t see the structure and the young peaches were totally hidden.

MAY 2021 – belated pruning

By late May I finally got round to pruning and training. This consisted of cutting many shoots, just keeping the best new shoots which will form next year’s fruit. I really should have included a “before” photo as the transformation was remarkable, and you can’t tell by comparing it to the previous April photo. This process of selecting replacement shoots (green in the diagram below) should have been done in April/May as the tree came into leaf and the shoots tied in as they grew through May/June. By leaving it until May the tree had put its energy into growing many shoots growing in the wrong direction which I now had cut off. If I had removed these earlier, more growth would have gone into the shoots I needed for next year’s fruit (i.e. the green shoots in the diagram below would be longer so potentially carrying more fruit next year)

The diagram above aims to explain the pruning logic. The orange branches are what I am planning to keep as the permanent framework. Each year, after harvest, all fruiting branches will be cut back to this framework. The green branches are this year’s shoots which were selected in the spring pruning session (all other shoots were removed at that point). These green replacement shoots will produce next year’s fruit benefitting from the space created when I remove this year’s fruiting branches (ie. the branches not coloured green or orange int he diagram)

July 2021 – Summer Pruning

By July there were many short side shoots that had developed along the framework (orange) and especially on the replacement shoots (green). I reviewed the structure, tied in the main replacement shoots (the green ones in the previous diagram) and cut back all the secondary side shoots to one or two leaves.

As you can see in the photo above this resulted in a much neater, flatter fan, lying close to the plane of the wall. The ripening fruit is also more clearly exposed to the sun.

A close up of one section. (Left) The blue lines show the pruning cuts. (Right) The horizontal replacement shoot has been maintained with the side shoots removed.

July 2021 – HARVEST

The peaches are coming up to harvest. I need to keep checking them every day or two. When they are ready they will separate from the branch easily. (That’s the theory anyway!)


SPRING 2022 [Update]

Two year’s after planting…

March 2022

March 11th. When the new shoots started to emerge I set about spring pruning last years branches. This involved tying in longer shoots flat against the wall, adding canes where necessary. Any remaining shoots which could not be accommodated were pruned off:

Peach flowers are very pretty (especially close up), but they emerge very early. Fortunately, the unheated greenhouse is enough to ensure they do not get frost damaged. Surprisingly there were sufficient pollinators around in early March that I didn’t need to hand pollinate.

MAY 2022

The peach puts on a lot of growth in the eight weeks between March and May. The job today was to prune and tie in branches to take it back flat against the wall. It’s a good time to do this as the fruit is now the size of apricots. Allowing the sun to get to them will help with the ripening.

My approach was to remove any shoots growing straight out, or growing towards the wall. Shoots in the right direction or those that could easily bent into the plane of the wall, were tied in to wires or new short canes. Where there was no space the strongest or best placed shoot was given the space and all others cut back to three leaves (typically 4-5in long).

I thinned some of the fruit where it was growing in clusters so that each has space to develop fully. You can see some of the young green fruit in the photo above. You can also see sachets of biological control which I placed in early April. I used Amblyseius andersoni which is a low temperature red spider mite predator that can be started early in the year (as soon as greenhouse temperatures are over 10C). The leaves are much healthier this year. so it’s working!

You can better see how much was removed in these side-shots:

It’s worth looking back to May 2021 to see how much the tree has grown in one year.

July 2022 – Harvest!

By early July the peaches were looking good…

Peaches started ripening in early July. We were eating them for the following three weeks.

A whole new strategy:
vertical fruiting offsets
AUG 2022

10 thoughts on “Greenhouse-Trained Peach ‘Duke of York’”

  1. I am also starting to train my peach tree as a fan. I have planted it on the South facing wall of my house. It is very simiar shape to your tree. However, I have read that peaches should only be trained starting with a framework of two ribs with all branches growing from those two ribs and the top leading shoot cut off. Is that true from your experience or can I allow for more ribs in the fan?

    • Certainly, starting with two (left right) branches (and removing the leader) is the traditional method. I was talked out of it by the nurseryman who sold me mine, so I went with his advice and simply shortened all the shoots by 1/3rd after planting. I can already see from the growth it has put on this year that the upper side shoots are more vigorous than the lower ones which may make it difficult in the long run to get full width coverage lower down. So I think the traditional method would have been better. As an experiment, though, I’ll continue with my multi-tier fan and see how it pans out. For me fruit training is an experimental and creative pursuit rather than a strictly right/wrong business and I enjoy seeing what I can do with what I’ve got. If I’m not happy with the results, I’ll chop out the middle and train it the traditional way. Hope you have fun (and success) with yours!

  2. I have really enjoyed reading about your peach and the progress. I have been reading lots of different websites but yours is the first that has given a regular update, which is nice to see as I try to imagine what to cut/prune/train. We have just moved into a new property 6months ago, and we are now in winter (NZ) so I know I need to get onto it soon.

    Just a big thank you for the progress, it’s great to see it visually on an actual tree 😊

    • Thanks Media, I’m so pleased! I write my blog just for the pleasure of recording what goes on in my garden. It’s so gratifying that it actually turns out to be useful to others!

  3. Very interesting! Your new training method sounds like the “Upright Fruiting Offshoot” (UFO) method. From reading various websites and books explaining how peach trees grow, I had thought that this could be a good method, so it is very good to hear about someone doing it in practice. I planted a peach in December, and am considering using this method of training.

    • I learned it from a Youtube video and realising that my tree was out of control thought it might be a solution. However, already this year, the new growth is overwhelming. Although simple in principle, I still find it hard to get my head round. For example, I have three one year old shoots which will fruit this year and dozens of fresh growth. I have to choose just, say, eight of these to train vertically which will bear next year’s fruit and cut out the rest. I will then cut back the three that have fruited (how far?) Then in the following year I will need new growing points for the eight new shoots which lie in between the eight I train this year… I don’t think I’ll feel comfortable with this until the sequence has proved itself for a couple of cycles!

    • I recall reading that peaches are reluctant to sprout from old wood. So I suppose that you might want to cut the fruited branches back to their lowest bud (or perhaps second-lowest, in case there is a problem with the lowest). As a result, the stumps would gradually get taller over time, reducing the vertical space available for new growth. But since peaches are supposed to be shorter-lived than other fruit trees, this may not be a problem.

      Do you know which rootstock you have? I believe seedling peach is especially vigorous.

      I can imagine that establishing your vertical branches in the right places could be more tricky on a tree which has already been there a few years.

      • Yes, I was thinking that (re: cutting back to lowest two buds)

        I think I have to make these decisions early in the seasons and prune back side shoots that are not part of the overall plan much earlier as the growth is quite rampant and chaotic by mid summer.

        I’m not sure of the rootstock, but looking at the supplier’s site I think it would be St Julian A.


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