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When To Prune Fruit Trees?
Updated: 21 May 2022
Fruit tree pruning at the right time of the year can help boost growth and fruit harvest.
The ideal time of year to prune a fruit tree is in late winter before it begins budding. If you have missed that and the tree is already starting to shoot, you can also prune in early to mid-spring. You want to avoid summer and early winter pruning as it will stress the tree.
There are some other factors to keep in mind when pruning fruit trees. Let’s take a look.
Fruit tree pruning in the winter spurs growth
Winter pruning is ideal if you live in a cold area because the tree is dormant, with no leaves, blossoms, or fruit. That implies it will be simple to see the structure of your tree and pick which cuts to make.
Some orchardists avoid pruning fruit trees in the early winter. Because branch development is low in the early winter, the tree cannot heal the wounds left by pruning cuts.
Late winter, on the other hand, is an ideal time to prune your trees. You can clearly see your tree’s structure, and you may rest assured knowing that spring is only around the corner, and your tree will soon be able to cure those wounds.
Furthermore, pruning your tree in late winter or early spring will encourage rapid development. Why? Because you’re keeping the best branches and removing the ones that aren’t as good.
These factors will aid the plant in directing its energy in the proper direction, as the tree will only utilise a small portion of its stored nutrients to stay alive over the winter. The majority of the remaining energy will be stored for a burst of activity in the spring.
When fruit trees awaken from their winter hibernation. Trees need their stored energy to fuel bloom, leaf, branch, and root growth as their buds open.
Fruit tree pruning in the spring
As spring approaches, the days become longer, the temperature warms, and your tree begins to emerge from its winter hibernation. Its roots contain an abundance of energy or carbohydrates, which it will use to fuel spring growth. Leaves, blooms, young fruit, and new shoots will appear as the buds on your tree burst open.
Although some orchardists prefer to prune in the spring, as the tree’s buds have opened and the blooms and leaves have begun to emerge.
The advantage of pruning now is that you can detect and remove any branches that did not make it through the winter. This is especially true for growers of delicate fruit plants like peach and apricot.
Pruning in the spring, on the other hand, will not foster as much development in your tree as pruning in the late winter would. That’s because, prior to trimming, the tree had already expended some of its stored energy to power leaf, flower, and sprout growth on its numerous branches.
Fruit tree pruning in the summer
Your tree had a busy spring season! When spring growth slows and the stored nutrients are depleted, your tree can use the rest of the summer to replenish its nutritional reserves. It will produce energy through photosynthesis and will use some of that energy to fund summer growth. In the winter, when the cycle begins again, the residual energy will be pulled back into the roots.
Summer pruning has its own benefits because your tree doesn’t have much energy and so it won’t grow vigorously and which can help you reduce the size of a large tree. The cherry tree is an example of summer pruning as it can grow up to three stories tall.
Benefits of pruning fruit trees
Below are some of the most notable benefits of pruning fruit trees.
- Early fruit production — trimming a new tree as soon as it is planted will encourage its growth and promote early fruit production.
- Controlling size — just because you want to grow fruit trees doesn’t mean you have to climb a 30-foot ladder. You can keep your fruit trees small and manageable by trimming them often.
- Simple to maintain — maintaining a clipped tree that is smaller and not too tall is considerably easier. Spraying or harvesting, and netting the tree to keep birds and insects away. A smaller tree makes all of these tasks considerably easier.
- Sunlight and airflow — when growing any type of food-producing plant, if it’s a fruit tree or a tomato plant, you learn very quickly how important airflow and sunlight are. Pruning allows for space between the branches which allows for sunlight and proper airflow. This prevents mould and a whole lot of different diseases.
- Improves fruit quality — fruit quality is improved by pruning, which leads to healthier fruit. Therefore the tree may concentrate its energy on producing healthy and large beautiful fruits instead of wasting it on supporting damaged, dead, or I’ll branches.
Fruit tree terminology
Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page and understand fundamental fruit tree terminology before we go any further.
Trunk – A tree’s main trunk is called a trunk. Some trees, such as figs, can have many trunks, but most trees only have one.
Crown – The crown is the part of the trunk that meets the ground.
Suckers – Sucker sprouts are sprouts that grow from a tree’s rootstock. Unless we’re trying to establish a multi-trunk system, we usually want to get rid of them and not let them compete with the primary trunk.
Crotch Angle – The angle formed by the trunk and limb is known as the crotch angle. Between 45 and 60 degrees is the most powerful angle.
Stub – It is a branch that was cut short.
Branch collar – The elevated tissue at the base of each branch is known as the branch collar. A wound is sealed by specialised cells in the collar. When pruning, it’s critical not to cut the collar. We want to cut right in front of the collar to allow the tree to heal the wound. We don’t want to leave a stub, on the other hand.
Heading cut – A heading cut is a cut that only removes a portion of a branch. It can sometimes result in a stub.
Crown thinning – This is a trimming technique where you reduce the number and thickness of branches in the canopy the increase the light penetration.
Scaffold limbs – A scaffold limb is a huge limb that serves as the scaffolding for the tree.
Lateral branch – A side branch from another branch is known as a lateral branch.
Shoot – The length of branch growth in one season. On a tree branch, you’ll find buds (teardrop-shaped parts where new growth starts from).
Basic rules of pruning fruit tree
Now you have got a basic understanding of the anatomy of a tree and different tree types. Let’s explore the basic principles of trimming a fruit tree. In other words, which branches should you prune?
If you have any dead or decaying branches on your tree, chop them off at the base (remember to cut them right in front of the branch collar).
If your tree is diseased, consider pruning as a yearly tree inspection. This is an excellent opportunity to inspect your fruit tree. Remove any unhealthy branches you find. Consider a treatment plan while you’re at it.
Even full-grown trees don’t need to be tall to produce a lot of fruit. Maintain a tree size that is manageable for you. If you don’t want to climb a ladder, keep the upper branches pruned or headed at a set height.
You need to eliminate crossing branches as much as possible. When the wind blows, the branches rub against one another, perhaps damaging the fruit or the branches themselves, making them weaker and more susceptible to pests and disease.
Ensure that sections of clustered branches are pruned to provide adequate airflow and sunshine.
you need to eliminate those angles because they make the branches weaker and once there is fruit on the branches they might break. So if you spot a branch in a Y shape, prune one of the top branches.
Time to know about the tools
A hand pruner will be used for 95% of your tree pruning. Pruners are unquestionably easier on the wrist, and they’re also useful for cutting branches into smaller chunks for disposal, as well as pruning or deadheading stubborn perennials.
For larger branches or a limb on more mature trees, you’ll need a lopper. Because this tool is used much less often than the hand pruner. long handled pruners, are used primarily for removing woody stems measuring an inch (2.5 cm.) or less in diameter. The long handles offer good leverage and allow you to reach higher branches.
Before pruning always clean your tools
It won’t take long to clean your tools, but it will save you time and money. You may limit the chance of illness spreading in your orchard by cleaning your pruner with hot water and soap.
Who knows what that pruner was used for the last time? After cleaning the pruner, apply a light oil to the blades for smooth cutting in the orchard.
Basic steps to prune a fruit tree
- The main goal is to figure out the tree’s shape. Is there a primary leader in the tree you’re looking at, or are there a few main scaffold branches? You need to know where your primary branches are.
- Need to find the secondary scaffolds. The main branches that emerge from the main scaffolds will be these. Move your gaze along them, clearing them of water sprouts first.
- Then examine for sick and dead shoots along each of the secondary scaffolds. Get rid of them. Continue your search for crossing branches, acute angles, clusters, and other features.
- When pruning any fruit tree, make sure the pruning cuts are made in the correct position. Always cut just after the end of the branch collar when removing a branch. The branch collar of a fruit tree is the ring of woody plant tissue that connects the branch to the trunk. Make sure you’re cutting the branch you want to get rid of, not the parent branch.
- Remove any branches from the trunk that are crotching at an angle of more than 45 degrees. The bark from these branches will eventually grow into the trunk’s bark, forming a weak “crease.”
Branch by branch does the best you can in the first year. It will be a good idea to visit that tree again in the summer.
Now you have got a basic understanding of how trees should be pruned and how pruning is done. Now go outside and observe some trees. See if you can determine what is their form, which are their main scaffolds, and what branches can be removed. You’ll be an expert in no time.
Author: Ben McInerney is a qualified arborist with over 15 years of industry experience. He uses his in-depth knowledge of the tree service industry to give readers to most accurate information on tree service costs and helps to educate about the benefits of using a certified arborist for tree trimming and removal work.
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