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Pruning fruit trees is an important task that serves several purposes for your fruit tree but knowing when to prune, what to prune and how much to prune are key to the success of your fruit tree. Pruning is very much an art and if you ask 5 professionals to come prune the same tree, they would likely all prune differently and do a good job. Read more on how to prune fruit trees properly. Why we prune: Pruning is the practice of removing specific parts of a tree to redirect energy into other parts of the tree to improve tree health and visual appeal.
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As fruit trees mature, they must undergo two pruning phases. When the tree is young, the first phase consists of cuts to select the primary scaffold and heading and thinning cuts to create the secondary scaffold.
In trees over 5 years old, the second phase begins, in which fruiting wood is maintained and renewed by thinning and heading fruiting and non-fruiting wood. Thinning cuts refer to the complete removal of branches and are applied to promote space for aeration, light penetration and fruit maturation. Heading cuts refer to the removal of portions of branches and are applied to force and direct branching and spur development and to restrict overall size of the tree.
In both phases, general pruning principles apply. First, remove all dead, dying and diseased wood. Second, remove all branches and limbs that grow toward the center of the tree. This promotes aeration and light penetration to the fruiting wood. Third, thin branches and limbs that cross or touch so that abrasions do not develop.
Finally, remove any suckers growing off the rootstock above or below the ground. You will find that heavy pruning encourages the formation of water sprouts and vegetative growth at the expense of fruiting woods. Light pruning, on the other hand, encourages heavy fruit set which results in smaller fruit of poorer quality and possible broken branches.
Since home growers must also keep trees to manageable sizes, strive for a balance between heavy pruning and renewing fruiting wood. In order to achieve this, you should know where your tree bears its fruit.
Almonds produce on spurs that remain productive for up to 5 years. Remove water sprouts and head and thin as necessary. As the tree matures, remove older, unproductive spurs to generate new spur growth.
Apples produce fruiting spurs on wood 2 years and older that are productive for 6 to 10 years. Thin out branches to admit sufficient light to all parts of the tree; this will encourage new spurs to develop.
Remove older, unproductive spurs as the tree matures. You may also need to thin spurs. Up to two-thirds new growth can be cut back annually. Apricots bear the bulk of their fruit on 2 year old wood. Because of a current influx of the bacteria Eutypa, we recommend pruning apricots in July and August, ideally, or by late September. All new growth can be cut back approximately by two-thirds. This wood will grow fruit spurs the second year and produce fruit the third year.
Cherries are borne on long-lived spurs that are productive for 10 to 12 years. When trees are young, head back main limbs one-third to create branching. Continue heading to create more branching and thus, more spurs. Because spurs are long-lived, thinning cuts tend to dominate pruning in phase two. They require little specialized pruning; head back to keep tree to manageable size and thin to keep aerated.
On younger trees prune whips back to 12 to 24 inches. Use thinning cuts to promote aeration. Pears bear fruit on spurs on 3 to 10 year old wood. Main limbs are usually headed each year and side limbs are lightly headed or left unheaded, producing spurs and fruit in future years. As in apples, remove older, unproductive spurs and thin middle-aged spurs. Japanese Plums and Italian Plums Prunes bear on fruit spurs which live 5 to 8 years. For varieties that bear heavy crops, remove one-half of the shoots each year.
Other varieties, like Santa Rosa, bear moderate to light crops so remove only one-quarter of the shoots. Walnuts produce fruit on spurs on 5 year old wood that remains productive for up to 15 years. For the mature tree, a pruning program can consist of applying the general pruning principles described above. Summer Pruning assists home orchardist with the goal of keeping trees to manageable sizes. Typically, the whip emerging from dormant season heading cuts are themselves headed and thinned in August or after fruit harvest.
By removing this growth, you remove leaves which would otherwise generate food for the tree and thus, vegetative growth. Many trees, especially apple, pear, apricot, peach, nectarine, persimmon, fig, and plum trees, can be kept to 10 to 12 feet utilizing summer pruning.
Trees this size are more easily sprayed, pruned in winter. Loyalty Club Gardens Consultation. Free Shipping Botanical Interests.
Skip to content Ontario. Explore Government. While the principles of pruning fruit trees do not change, the actual practices used in modern production systems vary. The higher density-supported training systems now used by commercial growers are managed by the same principles of pruning used in the past.
Late winter is the best time to prune mature apple trees. Remove any shoots called “suckers” arising from the base of the tree. Most trees are “grafted”.
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.
More Information ». Training and pruning are essential for growing fruit successfully. Fruit size, quality and pest management are influenced by training and pruning. Untrained and unpruned trees become entangled masses of shoots and branches that produce little or no fruit and harbor insects and diseases. Training begins at planting and may be required for several years.
Not all fruiting plants require an annual prune, and some new dwarf cultivars of apples, peaches, apricots and nectarines have been bred to eliminate the need for annual pruning and maintenance.
Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map! Pruning a citrus tree is a major task, but one that needs doing regularly to prevent lopsided growth and to encourage the best possible fruit growth. Suckers, also known as shoots or water sprouts, show up on the trunk and large limbs of a citrus tree. Suckers from the rootstock area can often be identified by their different-looking foliage. Removal of suckers is important, since they steal resources from the main plant.
Contributing Writer Pruning fruit trees is an art more than a science. There are general rules and methods that need to be observed when it comes down to making a cut, but knowing where to make that cut is an art. Years of pruning will make a person a better pruning artist just by trial and error. A lot of the art is simply standing back and taking a look at the tree and visualizing where the cuts need to be made. You will be pruning to make a healthy, more productive tree as well as to produce larger fruit. There are many methods of pruning a tree for best health and fruiting, but most fruit trees are pruned to just three tree structures:. Central Leader System. After you plant a young tree, prune the tree back about one-third to account for root disturbance.
Why do fruit trees need to be pruned and trained? Remove any dead or broken branches, suckers and water sprouts.
The boring bit, alas! A necessity to get the best from your, trees, good pruning not only controls and shapes the tree to your requirements, it also encourages the production of fruit buds. If it all seems a bit dense and complicated, take a good look at your tree[s] and make a start — it soon becomes clearer.
Many types of fruit trees produce suckers around the base of the tree. Crown suckers arise in the area immediately surrounding the tree trunk. Root suckers can arise from roots further away from the trunk. Suckers around trees are unsightly and they can harbor insect pests like wooly apple aphid and can be points of entry for diseases like fire blight.
Sometimes a tree starts looking more like a shrub, with a bushy clump of young stems sprouting from the base or from a spot on the trunk.
Fruit tree care comes with many challenges, particularly for new gardeners. Without close attention, insects, diseases and environmental issues can all affect production. The same goes for suckers and water sprouts. These vigorous new growth types take much-needed energy away from fruit trees, which can lead to a reduced yield. While the terms are often used interchangeably, water sprouts and suckers are two types of undesirable tree growth.
Early summer pruning has become common and has improved benefits for training young trees as it allows for smaller cuts with less stress to the tree. This is only commonsense, if you allow an undesirable branch to grow all summer, cutting it off in winter will mean a much greater wound for the tree to heal. Summer pruning can often be done just by 'rubbing off' unwanted buds with your fingers. Always avoid pruning on rainy days, as dry weather aids in healing the cuts.