How To Prune A Fruit Tree Correctly

3 man pruning rhododendrons

This article was contributed by Ben at Centaur Tree Services.

To stay safe and to ensure the longevity of the tree, trees will need to be pruned according to specific guidelines. Here are some of the best ways to prune your fruit trees.

Prune the trees when they are not active

  • It’s best to prune fruit trees when they are not active. That way you can see the tree better and have a better idea of what you ought to prune. Pruning now can give new life to the remaining buds. Winter is an ideal time to prune.
  • When you plant a new tree, you want to do some pruning to make sure it can thrive. Start by cutting the tree down to somewhere between 24 and 30 inches and get rid of any side shoots, so that there are only a couple buds remaining. This will make certain that all the tree gets the nutrients it needs. To keep the new tree safe from sunburn, you can paint it with white latex paint.
  • Younger trees that are considered low vigor plants should be pruned regularly for the first three years of life. Don’t prune the lower horizontal branches, though, as these will be the most important for bearing fruit. If you use branch bending, you can get vigorous trees to bear fruit much earlier than they normally would.

Create a Bush Effect

  • To create a bushing effect and to encourage vegetative growth, you can top vertical branches. For horizontal branches, topping can help renew the wood or produce more fruit and get rid of extra fruit. If you thin vertical branches, you will let in more light. Thinning horizontal ones will allow the breaches to bear less fruit.
  • Horizontal branches tend to bear more fruit, while upright ones tend to be vigorous and vegetative. If you want your tree to do well over the coming years, you need to have a balanced combination of the two. Bending branches to an angle of 45-60 degrees can achieve this effect.

Remove Dead Branches

  • Anytime you see broken or diseased branches, you need to remove them. Any competing branches growing straight up through the tree should be considered for pruning as well, as should suckers and water sprouts. Any branch bending down is liable to cause fruiting problems and the downward bending part should be removed.
  • You will see new growth at the spot where you made a cut. The cut’s influence will only extend to the nearest 7 or 8 inches, and won’t affect the tree farther away. As you cut off more buds, the new shoots will grow more vigorously.
  • Wood that is exposed to sunlight will be more fruitful than any other type of wood. Those branches that are shaded will stop bearing fruit over time. This means that most of your pruning should be done at the top of the trees to bring in more sunlight to the lower branches.

Make Clean Cuts

  • Make sure you don’t leave any buds behind by making clean cuts every time.
  • Fruits like kiwi, grape, nectarine, and peach will grow a lot from one year to the next and will need to be seriously pruned from year to year. You will want to remove about 50% of the new growth. For persimmon, pear, apple, cherry, almond, walnut, fig, pecan and chestnut, you should remove about 20% of the growth. If you are dealing with citrus trees, be sure to keep the skirts off the ground as they grow.
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