Very frequently when I see fruit trees, they are not well cared for and are usually in need of restoration. There are usually signs of diseases and pests and their growth is often stunted. You can save yourself years of backtracking by pruning and training fruit and nut trees while they are still immature. Trees need to be pruned to ensure they become structurally sound, to make them easy to care for and to help them produce high quality fruit.

Prune for the following:

  • Control of the size making it easier to care for and harvest.
  • Allow sunlight to spread evenly throughout tree.
  • Prevent the tree from producing too much fruit.
  • Prevent disease and insects damage by pruning dead, vertical, broken, and crossing branches.
  • Prune to increase strength of the limb structure.

The best time of year to most prune fruit trees is when they are dormant. In most zones, this is in between December until the middle of February, however apricots are pruned in the summer.

Pruning Cuts:

  • Thinning cuts remove branches at their point of origin or to a lateral whose diameter isat least 50 percent larger than the diameter of the removed branch. Thinning results in a reduced number of branches.
  • Heading cuts remove a portion of a shoot or branch, leaving only buds or a tiny twigon the remaining portion; results in an increased number of branches.

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Strongest growth goes to the terminal bud. When cut, the lateral bud becomes the terminal bud and growth continues in that direction.

Training Systems:

  • Central Leader makes trees smaller, and is excellent for distributing sunlight.
  • Modified Central Leader cross between central leader and open center.
  • Open Center can be used on all fruit and nut trees. It is best used with plums, pears, peaches and almonds. Makes big trees and fruit heavy top growth can cause damage.

Pruning Basics:

  1. Prune fruit trees when they are dormant in the winter months.
  2. Right after planting a new tree, cut if off to 24 to 30 inches high and cut any side shoots, remaining below that, to one bud.
  3. Young trees should be pruned heavily for the first 3 years and not allowed to produce any fruit.
  4. When deciding which branch to cut and where to cut it, remember that topping a vertical branch encourages vegetative growth necessary for development of the tree and opens the tree to more sunlight. Topping horizontal branches is done to renew fruiting wood and to thin off excessive fruit. Horizontal branches left uncut will bear earlier and heavier crops.
  5. Do most of the pruning in the top of the tree so that the lower branches are exposed to sunlight. Sun exposed wood remains fruitful and produces the largest fruit. Shaded branches eventually stop fruiting and will never produce without drastic topping and renewal of the entire tree.
  6. Make clean straight cuts.
  7. Use limb spreaders to encourage branches to grow at 45 degree angles.
  8. *VERY IMPORTANT* Don’t prune back more than 1/3 of the tree’s crown!

Contact me if you need help getting your fruit trees properly trained or pruned. I will be glad to stop by and assist you!


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