How to Prune Fruit Trees
Annual pruning of fruit trees will encourage healthy growth along with more fruit production, although the fall months present the opportunity to do some spring cleaning, thought, and care should be considered when carrying out pruning procedures. While pruning has its benefits we should approach this practice as to why we should prune during the fall months.
While some pruning can be considered during the fall season the ideal or best time to prune fruit trees is when the tree is dormant during early spring about two weeks after the last frost.
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Why Prune Fruit Trees
When to Prune Fruit Trees
- As said earlier the best time to carry out fruit tree pruning procedures is when the tree is still dormant which is early spring about two weeks after the late frost. During the dormant period, the tree has no leaves giving a better visual of what to cut. Because of this, the proper cuts will be made that will encourage a quick healing process
- Pruning during the fall months will encourage new growth that can be easily winter-killed
- Pruning during the early winter can encourage disease because of the open cut or wound
- The third year after the tree has been established is the ideal time to give your fruit tree a good pruning
Tree Pruning Tools
Once the time arrives for you to prune (when the tree is still dormant which is early spring about two weeks after the late frost) your fruit tree make sure that you have the right tools for the job. Base on the size of the cut that is to be made will determine which tool should be used, for example, hand pruners are used on limbs that are up to about one-fourth inch in diameter.
Loppers are large pruning tools that give more leverage to cut thicker branches up to 4-5 cm, and for even larger branches that are up to 10 cm thick a pruning saw is the ideal tool. In the case of an overgrown branch, a pruning saw is the perfect tool to get the job done for you. Depending on the height of the tree a ladder may be needed making the pruning job more comfortable and easy. Other tools you will need for your safety are a strong pair of garden gloves and safety glasses to protect your eyes if you’re working on overhead branches and a safety hat will come in handy to protect your head.
How to Prune a Fruit Tree
Before pruning your fruit tree stand back and take a look first to get a good visual or look at the tree from every angle, look for disease and broken branches, look for branches that are dead, overgrown, areas where branches are crowded, and branches that are crossing.
The goal also is to help the tree maintain its natural form or shape, as a rule, to make your pruning procedure easy remember that most trees are vase-shaped or chalice-shaped. Also what’s important to consider is do your fruit tree produces fruits on old or new wood, there are many fruit trees for example cherry trees only produce fruits on wood that’s from the prior year’s growth. Any branches that are new won’t produce fruits so avoid trimming these branches.
1. Trees such as nectarines and peaches will produce fruits on recent growth, pears and apples on the other hand love 2-year-old wood or older to produce delicious fruits. However, when you start your pruning start with the removal of dead and diseased wood, once that’s done and before you move on to damaged or broken wood sterilize your pruner to avoid the spread of disease. Once that’s done proceed to the removal of broken branches.
2. Water sprouts and suckers can be removed as well because they are not beneficial to fruit trees, water sprouts are thin branches that grow straight upward and suckers are branches that can be found or located growing at the base of a tree. These suckers or branches serve no purpose other than to draw the tree’s energy along with nutrients that the tree could use elsewhere to encourage healthy growth and fruit production
The removal of suckers will help in making your pruning job easier, cut the suckers off as close as possible (flush), to discourage the regrowth of water sprouts and suckers. A flush cut will also help with aesthetics or the tree’s natural form.
3. Look into the interior of the tree to locate branches that are growing towards the center or crossing other branches, these branches should be removed because they will rub against each other encouraging fruits to drop prematurely. These branches if allowed to remain will cause poor air flow or circulation and prevent sunlight from getting to the lower branches which will encourage fungal disease.
4. The leader or the main branch is the tree’s trunk, from this main branch grows all other branches known as secondary branches, the leader will determine the shape of your tree. The goal here is to have a well-balanced tire for your fruit tree, the job of the leader is to produce secondary branches, and from the secondary branches will grow the third tier.
This creates a structure that’s strong and well-balanced, once the leader is pruned or cut will stimulate the growth of the third-tier branches. The leader should be trimmed about 24″ above the second-tier branches, this will cause the tree to branch outward rather than fast upward growth. For your tree to grow taller then don’t cut this branch.
5. Decide which branch would be your second-tier supporting branches, the main support branches of the tree should be the stronger branches to support the weight of the fruits. Too many secondary-tier branches can cause crowding at the tree’s interior, locate the strongest of the branches emerging from the leader, and remove branches that are thinner and shorter than these for a balanced form.
When cutting off secondary branches consider balance, if a larger branch disturbs the tree’s natural balance you may have to remove it, the final cut will encourage the cleanup of the second and the third tier. Reapt this process by thinning out the third tier leaving the strongest branches that will help to create balance. Once there are three well-balanced tiers remove small branches growing from your second and third tiers.
- Heavy Pruning should be spaced out over several seasons
- Never carry out pruning procedures when it’s wet, the best time is during dry periods to reduce or discourage disease
- A pruning tool that was used to remove disease parts from a tree should be sterilized first before carrying out pruning procedures on a healthy tree
- To sterilize your pruner mix about a tablespoon of bleach with a half gallon of water, stir this mixture thoroughly, soak one end of a piece of clean cloth in this solution, and proceed to wipe the blades in a downward motion, be careful not to cut or injury your hand.
- Or add the mixture to a 32 oz spray bottle, followed by spraying the pruner’s blades thoroughly and wiping the blade off with a clean piece of cloth or rag
- Never remove more than 25% of the branches on a tree in one year, you want to avoid the tree from going into stress, what will also happen is too much first-year growth will use most of the plant’s nutrients that would otherwise be used for fruit production
The Final word on should I prune fruit trees in the fall
There you have it, your very own guide on when and how to prune fruit trees, pruning the right way will not only encourage healthy tree growth but a fuller tree with better quality fruits that will cause you to reap a bountiful harvest. So be good to your fruit tree and do the pruning job the correct way and your tree will be good to you producing delicious fruits in abundance.
About the author
Norman loves being in the garden, both at home and for his job....
he is 'Natures Little helper' being outdoors, growing his vegetables and flowers from an early age.
Now having spent over 22 years in the profession he want to give some of his knowledge to others...
his vast array of hints and tips you will find scattered over this site will help you no end growing plants in your garden.