This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
122. Disbudding is the suppression of all the useless or badly-disposed shoots and laterals, with the intention of concentrating the sap, of encouraging the growth of the young shoots retained, and of keeping a sufficient space in which to nail them with regularity and symmetry. Disbudding, to produce the best results, should be divided into two distinct operations. The first takes place as soon as all the buds of the Peach tree become developed into young shoots, so as to enable us to know the ones that are unnecessary; it is the operation subsequent to the winter-nailing. The second takes place successively as vegetation proceeds, and applies to the laterals as well as to the primitive young shoots.
123. The first operation is a very good substitute for winter-disbudding, which I do not recommend. It most commonly takes place early or late in May, according as vegetation is more or less forward; but always before the young shoots have acquired too much strength. If we deferred too long, the suppression of the young shoots would cause a great derangement in the circulation of the sap. It is, therefore, very important to make the first removal of young shoots while the latter are herbaceous, and scarcely three-fourths of an inch long. It is performed on the fruit-branches in the case mentioned at 121, and on shoots of the former year which terminate the wood-branches recently pruned. In fact, these shoots, the result of the former year's pruning, will have formed a great number of triple eyes, more especially on strong trees. These eyes, opening at the same time, would produce young shoots, which, if retained, would consume too great a quantity of 6ap. For this reason, the middle one, which is always the strongest., must be invariably suppressed at the time of its first starting into active growth, preserving only the best-placed of the remaining two, in order that it, and others managed in the same way, may, on their becoming fruit-branches, regularly furnish the principal branches.
With respect to double shoots, the same procedure is adopted as in the two latter cases. This first disbudding is of very great importance for ensuring the beauty which a tree presents when its principal branches are regularly furnished with bearing-shoots, and for the maintenance of an equal growth throughout the tree. It may be performed by the hand on the fruit-branches, and with the point of the pruning-knife on the prolonging shoots of the wood-branches.
124. It is always worse than useless to cause a waste of sap, for the latter is often too scarce in the lower branches. The removal of young shoots in well-managed trees ought, therefore, to be made at different times, as circumstances may require; for if we wait till there be too great a number of young shoots to be suppressed, it might cause the loss of the tree. There are, however, some cultivators who disbud only once, usually in July, and who cut off in one day all the useless young shoots. This is a great error; the absence of fruit-branches in so many Peach trees at Montreuil is almost solely attributable to the removing, at one time, all the useless young shoots and laterals.
The second disbudding is performed with the pruning-knife, cutting off the young shoots that are to be removed, as closely as possible to their insertion.