One of the most common mistakes homeowners make is pruning their fruit trees while the fruit and leaves are still present. This creates additional openings in the tree’s vascular system through which deadly diseases can enter. Too many beautiful fruit trees fall victim to blight and other diseases because they were pruned at the wrong time. When and how should you prune fruit trees? Read on!
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What is the purpose of pruning trees
Pruning promotes growth: pruning your fruit trees in the summer removes important leaves that collect vitamin-rich sunlight for growth. It also slows down the ripening process of the fruit and exposes it to potential sun damage. Pruning the tree before winter dormancy is also a signal to the tree to “Start growing!” before winter arrives. It’s like stepping on the gas pedal in front of a red light: It’s dangerous!
Fruit trees need to be completely dormant before you prune them. If fruit or leaves are still on the trees, it is too early to prune. It is best to wait to prune until we have had a good season with temperatures below freezing. This forces the trees into hibernation and protects them from an unwanted growth spurt before winter.
When to prune fruit trees
The best time to prune fruit trees is in the middle of winter, after a long period of frost. At that time, all leaves and fruit are gone, and you can clearly see the branch structure of the tree. Short, small branches are called “stolons” and bear most of the flowers that eventually produce fruit. You can prune fruit trees in the spring before your tree bears its first leaves.
Prune young fruit trees
The best time to prune fruit trees is at planting and in subsequent years in early spring, before buds break and trees are still dormant. Pruning should be done at the time of planting by cutting the new trunk 61-76 inches above the ground and removing all side shoots. This will cause the new tree to develop low branches and balance the growth and root system so that the plant does not become top heavy during establishment.
For the first two to three years, you can’t expect a lot of fruit as the plant develops low branches for better fruiting. This form of training for young trees can take many forms, but the most common is central leader training. In this form of training, the tree receives a strong trunk and laterally branched shoots that start about 76 cm above the ground. The framework is formed by selecting a scaffold whorl, four to five balanced branches that form the basic shape of the tree.
Pruning the tree after the first year
It is important to know how to prune a fruit tree in the first three years. The goal is to increase the strength of the scaffold, encourage fruit-bearing branches, and minimize rubbing and crossing. The best time to prune fruit trees that are newly planted is in the summer, after new growth has begun following initial pruning. After new growth reaches 7.5 to 10 cm, select the main shoot and remove all other branches 10 cm below it.
The side branches are spread so that they form an angle of 45 to 60 degrees to the main shoot. In this way, a maximum of light and air is supplied, and strong branches are formed, which are not prone to splintering and can bear a lot of heavy fruit. After five to six weeks, you should remove these branches.
Pruning a tree after three years
The first three years are about maintaining the framework, removing intersecting branches, secondary stems, water shoots and downward shoots, and cutting side shoots back to a quarter of their length . This last step will push back the side branches. In addition, side branches on mature trees are kept in shape by pruning them back to at least two-year-old wood of approximately the same diameter. Dormant pruning in early spring is also a good time to remove dead wood and poor growth that interferes with fruiting. Once the tree is mature and properly trained, pruning is almost unnecessary except to reduce weak branches and remove dead wood.
Neglected fruit trees may require drastic rejuvenation pruning that will revitalize the framework but minimize fruiting for several years. You must know how to prune a neglected fruit tree or the wood will become weak and breakage and splitting will occur. Also, trees that are too dense have poor fruit production, so canopy maintenance becomes a problem for older plants.
How to prune fruit trees
To produce high quality fruit, fruit trees such as apples, pears, cherries and plums need regular pruning in the early years to develop healthy growth and well-distributed branches, and light pruning in subsequent years. You can prune fruit trees in many different ways that result in high quality trees , such as the center cane, multiple cane, open center, trellis and cordon forms of education. It is important that you are willing to sacrifice maximum fruit production in the early years to find the right shape for your fruit tree. This will ensure higher fruit production in later years. When pruning fruit trees, the following growth forms should be removed:
A. Water shoots and suckers
B. Broken branches or stumps
C. Branches that grow downward
D. Branches crossing or rubbing each other (remove the weaker branch)
E. Branches that are shaded or on the inside
F. Competing leading branches
G. Long, slender growth inside the tree
H. Whorls (branches that are exactly in the same plane as another branch)