Pruning is one of the most important aspects of fruit tree care. Your fruit tree should be pruned every year for it to produce and perform at its best. Remember, done is better than perfect! When pruning, you want to keep in mind the form of your tree. When young, fruit trees are trained to grow in certain shapes that promote the optimal fruit production for that type of tree.
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- How to Prune Fruit Trees
Pruning is basically the removal of selected parts of a tree to control its growth to suit our purposes. Unmanaged trees eventually become overcrowded with non-productive wood, and tend to produce every second year biennial cropping. When they do fruit they are likely to produce lots of very small fruit that are too high to reach. Pruning deciduous trees in the winter months encourages regrowth, which is desirable for formative pruning, when we want to shape a young tree, or for renovation pruning, where we want to change the shape of a mature tree.
Branches bent at angles of degrees achieve a balance between vertical and horizontal growth, and can hold more weight of fruit without breaking. New growth will occur near the area of the pruning cut. The more you cut off, the more regrowth will be produced. This is counterintuitive, because the way to make a branch grow more is to prune harder, to cut off more!
When removing branches smaller than about 2cm thick, use bypass secateurs to cut off the branch at its base without damaging the collar. The branch collar is a distinctive bulge at the base of the branch, where it connects to the trunk — even if you cannot see it, it is still there and should not be damaged. Loppers and pruning saws can be used for pruning thicker branches. When removing large branches with a pruning saw, to prevent tearing off the bark and damaging the tree as it comes off, use a three-cut method of pruning.
Do not apply paints or sealants to pruning cuts. Allow the cuts to dry in open air and heal naturally. Research findings show that there is no benefit to the tree and the practice can even encourage disease. The main use of pruning sealants is cosmetic to disguise pruning cuts. Before pruning for shape or to renew fruiting wood, the following pruning needs to be carried out first.
The central leader: form is commonly used on apples and pears, though these can also be pruned as a vase shape. The vase shape has an open centre, and is the form used for peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots — as some of these branch too heavily to maintain a central leader form.
The vase shape is a very popular form for backyard fruit trees. With pruning, the aim is to maintain the existing form of the tree, or to renovate it to return it back to its original form. To prune most fruit trees, simply prune new growth by half to an outward facing bud to renew the fruiting wood.
There are some exceptions to this rule, as different types of fruit trees flower and fruit on wood of a particular age and sometimes on certain parts of the branches. Listed below are the detailed pruning instructions for the most common types of fruit trees and a few notable exceptions.
These all bear fruit on one year old wood new wood produced the previous summer. NOTE — Do not winter prune apricots! Apricots are prone to bacterial gummosis and should only be pruned in spring or late autumn on a dry and preferably windy day to prevent infection entering the pruning cuts.
Some people recommend pruning dwarf peach trees in summer. When you look at your tree, there will be three types of wood; Last years fruiting wood, this years fruiting wood has fruit on it and next years fruiting wood growth that is fresh, and has no fruit on it.
Peaches grow on the lateral growth made in the previous season, so leaving alone branches bearing fruit this season, prune to remove the previously fruited old wood, and carefully thin and space out the new seasons fruiting wood which will bear fruit next year.
Apples, pears and European plum trees are pruned differently. These fruit on spurs formed on two year and older wood old wood formed 2 or more summers ago. If trees have become overgrown, renovation pruning can be used to reduce the size of the tree gradually.
The best way to reduce the canopy size of a fruit tree is to remove a major limb or two in late winter, which will encourage regrowth to create replacement branches. The new shoots can then be pruned to the correct size and maintained that way. The simple rule to follow is do not remove any more than one third of the canopy during any one year. Using this system, the whole canopy can be renewed over a three year period. To encourage branches to shoot below another branch without pruning off any of the above growth, a small nick can be made through the bark just above a bud.
This is called suturing and is a useful technique to encourage branching where there is a gap in the canopy. Pruning carried out in the first three years to create the trees shape is called formative framework pruning. Once the tree has grown into the desired shape, we keep it that way with maintenance detail pruning. If a mature tree needs reshaping because it has grown too large or has been neglected, we can restore the shape and fruiting wood with renovation pruning. Why we prune 1.
To maintain the tree in a specific shape, such as a vase, central leader, or espalier form. To limit size, as low trees are easier to prune, harvest, spray and net. To allow light to penetrate into the canopy, which reduces fungal diseases, allows for more even fruit ripening, and reduces shading of lower branches which helps keep lower fruit buds and fruiting spurs alive.
To limit fruiting, as pruning thins out the fruit, producing larger fruit and consistent cropping year to year, rather than lots of little fruit every second year. Upright growth is generally vegetative non-fruiting green leafy growth and vigorous. Horizontal branches generally favour the formation of fruiting buds and are less vigorous. We can prune shorten branches to create more of the growth we require: Pruning a vertical branch creates vegetative growth and branching. Pruning a horizontal branch renews fruiting wood and thins excessive fruit.
We can also thin out remove branches to improve fruiting: Thinning vertical branches opens the tree to more light for more even fruit ripening. Thinning horizontal branches removes fruit, and has the same effect as fruit thinning larger fruit and consistent fruiting every year. Note — Horizontal branches left uncut will bear earlier and heavier crops. How to prune your fruit tree If your fruit tree already has an established shape, then prune to maintain that shape.
Remove all dead, broken and diseased branches to eliminate entry points for pests and diseases and prevent further spread of disease. Remove the weakest of crossing branches and any competing branches growing straight up into the tree, to prevent them rubbing and damaging each other, as the wounds create entry points for diseases. Remove branches bending downward beyond 90 degrees, cut off the part hanging down, as they will lose vigour and produce only a few small fruit Fruit trees are commonly pruned as a central leader or vase shape.
Pruning Stone Fruit Winter Pruning Japanese Plums, Peaches and Nectarines; Spring or late autumn pruning apricots These all bear fruit on one year old wood new wood produced the previous summer. Cut all inward-growing branches to open up the centres of the trees.
Apples Shorten old fruiting laterals side branches and twigs by half. Remove weakened laterals to encourage the more vigorous laterals to produce fruiting spurs. Thin out excess regrowth to allow better light penetration. Remove old, non-productive fruit spurs and twigs ones that have fruited for more than years. Pears Fruit is produced on long-lived spurs on old laterals. Shorten old fruiting laterals side branches and twigs by half. Thin out old and crowded fruit spurs.
Remove weakened laterals to encourage the more vigorous laterals to produce fruiting spurs European Plums Fruit is produced on long-lived spurs on 2 year old laterals. Shorten long laterals side branches and twigs by half, or to 20 cm if they are very long, to renew the fruiting spurs. Short laterals under 25cm, particularly if they are behind fruiting spurs, can be left unpruned. Remove any weak or unproductive fruiting spurs.
Prune out very long shoots that are crowding out the canopy. Winter Pruning Cherries Require little pruning from year to year. The first and second years growth will form the framework of the tree. Shortening the main branches by half to two thirds to an outward facing bud is all that is required. Fruiting spurs will develop along the branches, from which the fruit is borne. Prune out any broken branches, or those that cross over other branches. Old, unproductive spurs may be pruned out and new spurs created by pruning back a new shoot to the main lateral.
Winter Pruning Figs Figs can be trained as espaliers, open vase and bush shapes. Some figs produce two crops a year in temperate and sub-tropical climates. Winter Pruning Pomegranates Pomegranates fruit on short shoots or spurs near the ends of branches which remain productive for years, after that cut to a younger side branch to renew fruiting wood. If you cut the ends of all branches, no fruit will be produced! Pomegranates sucker heavily, so remove all suckers shoots coming up from the roots as they reduce the vigour of the tree.
Pruning Overgrown Trees If trees have become overgrown, renovation pruning can be used to reduce the size of the tree gradually. Suturing To encourage branches to shoot below another branch without pruning off any of the above growth, a small nick can be made through the bark just above a bud.
There are lots of ways to shape fruit trees depending on the priorities of the grower and the space available but pruning is not just about pretty forms. Pruning can help trees to fight off infections by allowing for good ventilation and should encourage your trees to produce more fruit. In a community orchard there are many factors that influence how we manage the trees, such as highlighting the beauty of fresh, local fruit; bringing life and vitality to parks and streets; and creating habitat for urban wildlife. The open-centred bush tree meets our requirements, as it is relatively straightforward to prune, low enough to be accessible for fruit harvest and encourages trees to develop habitat features such as hollows when they are older. In natural growth a tree will have a central leader —the branch that grows tallest through the middle of the tree and a structure of lateral or side branches that form the rest of the tree. In an open centred tree the central leader is removed and four to five scaffold branches, the main limbs that support the fruit-bearing lateral shoots, are developed through formative pruning.
For starters, fruit trees need pruning in order to survive. Pruning gives the fruit tree the type of positive stimulation that is required for.
Pumpkin spice? I can take it or leave it. For me, fall means fresh-picked apples turned into mile-high pies with a crumb topping and ice cream, warm apple crisp right out of the oven, and freshly pressed cider. Having an apple tree in my backyard means easy access to such deliciousness but with it comes the basic maintenance and uptake of a fruit tree, including pruning the tree annually. There are mixed opinions on whether pruning an apple tree is similar to other fruit trees in your yard. Peach and nectarine trees produce fruit only on growth from the previous season so they need a great deal of pruning. Apple trees and pears lie on the other end of the spectrum because they produce fruit on long-lived branched called fruiting spurs, so they need less work. In between these two extremes are all of your other fruit trees. Every year, your apple tree will put on new growth, as all trees do. This means new shoots develop and grow.
Zsuzsy has been an online writer for many years. Her articles often focus on DIY home projects and delicious recipes. Kristijan Arsov via Unsplash; Canva. First of all, fruit trees do not need to be pruned to produce fruit.
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Join us on Facebook. That's the time when action is required to free up the centre of the tree and get it producing fruit on the lower branches. We recommend that you take a four step approach before you even begin to prune an established plum tree. The reason for this is that although plum trees withstand neglect better than many fruit trees they can be put at risk from bacterial and other infections if you don't carry out pruning correctly. Incorrect pruning techniques are far more liable to damage the tree compared to lopping off the wrong branch using good pruning techniques. Those steps are:.
Fruit trees require special care to ensure high-quality fruit production and good structure. At Baum Tree Care, our trained arborists are experts in the pruning and care of a wide variety of tree species, including apple, pear, cherry, and plum trees. The best time to prune fruit trees is in the late winter or early spring, during the months when the tree is still dormant. It is important not to prune too early because it can cause dehydration and damage to the branch tissue. It is best to prune right before buds start to open and leaf out. When pruning, care needs to be taken make sure that there are enough spurs for a good crop, but not too many or the branch may break under the weight of the fruit.
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Make a donation. Apple and pear trees trained as free-standing bushes are best pruned every winter to ensure a good cycle of fruiting wood. Trees that are not pruned become less productive and congested with old branches. The aim is to create an open goblet shape with a framework of four to five main branches.
Fruit tree pruning is an essential part of maintaining healthy plants and juicy fruits!
Not sure when or how to prune your fruit trees? For helpful tips about growing fruit trees in Northern Virginia , see these articles:. Many trees in our urban and suburban environment benefit from regular pruning. But fruit trees, in particular, need regular — and proper — pruning. You can prune commonly-grown Northern Virginia fruit trees such as apple, pear, or cherry at any time of year, especially if there are structural problems or damage that needs to be fixed. However, there are a few things to keep in mind during different seasons. From their first spring flowers to their last dropped autumn leaf, trees respond to changes in temperature and hours of daily sunlight.
Did you know that there are 3 mistakes to avoid when pruning a fruit tree? Many homeowners and amateur gardeners start out with good intentions when trying to prune their fruit trees but end up doing more harm than good. As the old proverb goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.