How To Prune Your Fruit Trees

So, you got yourself a fruit tree. Whether for reasons of health or aesthetic or another reason, you now own your very own fruit tree. But before you go planting it in the back yard and then never giving another thought to it, you should know that there is more to caring for a fruit tree than you think.. in particular, pruning.
There is not only a science, but an art to pruning, so for those starting out, here are the basic steps, tips, and tricks for How to Prune Fruit Trees…

When to Prune

The ideal pruning time is during the fall, winter, or early summer, when the leaves will be off of the trees. That will help you see what it is you’re doing without a bunch of leaves in your vision. Plus removing dormant buds will enliven the remaining ones.

Pruning in summer can hurt rather than help the trees if your goal is to make sure they grow healthily. It can expose fruit to sunburn, can slow fruit ripening, and removes leaves – one of the primary sources of manufacturing food. However, if your goal is to slow down your tree’s growth, whether they’ve outgrown your yard, or to shorten trees that are too large.

A young tree should be prune somewhat heavily for the first three years, to promote more long-term growth. You should still leave the small horizontal branches alone, as this will result in later fruiting. However when your trees are thriving, you should leave them alone, for the most part.

How to Prune

The first step is to remember the three D’s: damaged, diseased, or dead. These three types of branches should be the first ones to go. Any sprouts coming for the tree’s base (known as suckers), as well as any suspiciously erect sprouts coming from the main branches, should also be removed. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t leave the stubs on the branches, cut them as flush against the branch as you can.

Tools required

The typical tool for this job is pruning shears, special clippers explicitly designed to cut through thin tree branches. These are available as any hardware or gardening store. When pruning it’s essential to keep your tools sharp. Blunt tools can cause branches to tear, leading to wounds on the tree that will attract disease.
It’s also important to have a pruning saw to cut off larger branches.

Pruning a bush tree

  • A bush tree is the most common form of fruit tree, with an open arrangement of branches growing from a short trunk.
  • Remove any dead, dying or diseased branches and then cut out any branches that are crossing over each other.
  • Branches that are growing into the centre of the tree can also be cut out , as prevents sunlight from reaching it.
  • If the tree has reached the desired height, cut back the leaders (the new growth at the tip of each branch) by about two-thirds.
  • If you want the tree to grow taller, leave the leaders and cut back lateral branches leaving about six buds.

Pruning shaped fruit trees

    • There are numerous ways trees can be trained, according to the type of fruit and the space available. Avoid tip bearing varieties when buying a tree to shape, as it is necessary to spur prune these plants to keep the shape.
    • The simplest form of fruit tree is a cordon, a single, supported straight stem studded with short fruiting spurs that receive most of the plant’s vigour and light.
    • For the first three years until fruiting begins, the aim of pruning is to develop the shape by tying in the main stem, or leader, and shortening new sideshoots, or laterals, to three leaves beyond their basal cluster of leaves.
    • Cut back any shoots that grow from these pruned laterals to one leaf.
    • Once the leader reaches the required height, shorten its new growth annually to two buds in late August. In winter cut the spurs out to prevent crowding.
    • Apple or pear espaliers and fans are pruned in the same way, each branch being treated as a separate cordon.

    Pruning overgrown trees

    • Old, neglected trees are often vigorous and very large, with the fruit out of reach. Rejuvenate them over two to three seasons by cutting out all the dead or diseased wood as well as a few main branches to allow more sunlight in.
    • Shortening others to side branches and thinning overcrowded spurs also helps stimulate new productive shoots.

    We hope you have found this post on How to Prune Fruit Trees helpful. Good pruning not only controls and shapes the tree to your requirements, it also encourages the production of fruit buds. If you need help pruning your fruit trees, look no further than Treescape. We are experienced arborists serving the Charlotte and Gastonia areas. Contact us for more info and a quote.

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