Young trees are pruned to train them to become structurally sound, to make them easy to care for and to ensure the production of high quality fruit. Pruning will:
- Control size for easier care in maintaining and picking fruit
- Increase strength – develop strong limb structure
- Distribute sunlight evenly throughout tree
- Regulate fruit bearing – removes excess fruitwood
- Renew fruitwood – to continue strong buds and flowers
- Remove undesirable wood- dead, broken, and crossing branches.
Although the optimum time of year to prune fruit trees is the dormant season, controlling the height of the trees, shortening long branches and removing the suckers should be done during summer months.
There are two types of pruning cuts:
- Thinning is the removal of the entire shoot or limb where it originates. Scissors type hand pruners allow closer cuts. Close cuts heal faster. Stubs will be more susceptible to infection.
- Heading is the removal of part of a branch. In a heading cut select the right bud. Normally the bud points the direction of the new branch. A bottom bud of a horizontal branch will likely continue horizontal.
- Often, eliminating only one or two misplaced, large primary limbs in the center opens up the tree giving it an entirely new look.
Strongest growth goes to the terminal bud. When cut, the lateral bud becomes the terminal bud and growth continues in that direction.
To read more about how to cut branches, press here
Press here to read the 10 commandments of pruning.
Basics of How to Prune Fruit Trees
- Prune fruit trees when the leaves are off (dormant). It’s easier to see what you are doing and removal of dormant buds (growing points) invigorates the remaining buds. Summer pruning removes leaves (food manufacture), will slow fruit ripening, and exposes fruit to sunburn. Summer pruning can be beneficial, however, when used to slow down overly vigorous trees or trees that are too large.
- Right after planting a new tree, cut if off to short stick 50-70cm high and cut any side shoots, remaining below that, to one bud. This encourages low branching and equalizes the top and root system. Paint the tree with white latex paint to protect it from sunburn and borer attack.
- Young trees should be pruned fairly heavily and encouraged to grow rapidly for the first 3 years without any fruit. Leave most of the small horizontal branches untouched for later fruiting.
- When deciding which branch to cut and where to cut it, remember that topping a vertical branch encourages vegetative growth necessary for development of the tree and opens the tree to more sunlight. Topping horizontal branches is done to renew fruiting wood and to thin off excessive fruit. Horizontal branches left uncut will bear earlier and heavier crops.
- Upright branches generally remain vegetative and vigorous. Horizontal branches generally are more fruitful. A good combination of the two is necessary, for fruiting now and in future years. Remove suckers, water sprouts and most competing branches growing straight up into the tree. Downward bending branches eventually lose vigor and produce only a few small fruit; cut off the part hanging down.
- New growth occurs right where you make the cut; that is the influence of the cut only affects the buds within 20cm of the cut surface not 1m down into the tree. The more buds cut off the more vigorous the new shoots will be.
- Do most of the pruning in the top of the tree so that the lower branches are exposed to sunlight. Sun exposed wood remains fruitful and produces the largest fruit. Shaded branches eventually stop fruiting and will never produce without drastic topping and renewal of the entire tree.
- Make clean cuts (within 1cm) of bud; don’t leave stubs.
- Use spreaders or tie downs to get 45° angles branches of upright vigorous growing trees.