No Need to Fear Pruning Fruit Trees
Since I got so much positive feedback regarding last week's email tip, I thought it only appropriate to link you to a myriad of websites for this week's tip sheet as well. This week's is all about pruning fruit trees. And it couldn't be more perfectly timed since calendar-wise we are in the heart of the dormant season. Even if you see some new growth or a peeking out of blooms, it is still time to prune the fruit trees.
While it is necessary to prune all fruit trees, there are variances on the 'how's' and 'why's'. However, with only minor exceptions (Blackberry would be a good example; pruned after the harvest season) the 'when' is definitely now, since February is considered the heart of the dormant season. So, I've tried to provide you with as many basic links to as many possible websites regarding pruning instructions. I've even broken down to as many fruit-specific links as possible. But before you jump down there, please read on about what should be considered "getting-started-basics" of fruit tree pruning.
Ever since my days working at Texas A&M University when we had videos or publication projects for the Horticulture Department, I remember so vividly the hesitation people had then and still have now in pruning their baby fruit trees. Even thought there will be lots of information provided in the week's email tip, I ultimately hope to remove the fear and intimidation from any of this process so more and more people will jump to their fruit tree's pruning needs this year.
Okay, so first some of those basic rules. If you haven't already figured it out in the gardening world, pruning is most critical for fruit plants. Young fruit trees need a strong framework on which to hang their fruits and to ensure their branches bask in plenty of sugar-producing sunlight. Pruning fruit plants lessens disease problems and, by removing some fruits, (Thinning) pumps more flavor and size into those that remain.
With a young fruit tree, preserve branches that are 6 inches apart and that make wide angles with the trunk. If the tree is initially a single stem, at planting, cut back that stem to 2 to 3 feet above ground level, then select side branches as the plant grows. If the tree already has branches, save those that are wide-angled and in good positions, but remove all others. Shorten those you save to a few inches. By the way, there a few other links down below to match you to the visual descriptions we refer to in this week's tip sheet and all the links you may encounter below.
Mature fruit trees need annual pruning. The amount to remove depends on the size of the particular fruit and the bearing habit of the tree. Cherries, for instance, are small and are borne on older stems, so the plants need little pruning. Peaches, in contrast, are large and are borne only on 1-year-old wood, so they need severe annual pruning to thin fruits and stimulate new shoots that can bear the following year's crop. Know your tree's fruiting habits, and prune accordingly. For example, fruit grows on the wood from the previous season for peaches and nectarines, so be careful about cutting off last year's healthy growth.
Pruning can often be as simple too as remember the three Ds: dead, damaged, diseased. These should all be carefully removed. Also prune out branches that rub or chafe against each other. This can damage bark, and invite disease and insects. You should also prune at a slant, angling away from the tree so water does not run into the tree's center. Finally, from the "BASICS" of fruit tree pruning, prune the trees to have an open center, to allow for light and air circulation. Look for fruit buds on the trees when pruning, and plan your pruning around those to ensure you have fruit. Last, but not least always have sharpened pruning tools and remove the debris and cuttings from the area underneath your trees so they don't harbor any insects or diseases.
So, without further ado, here's a list of pruning and basic care websites for specific fruit varieties. If there are pruning-fruit-specific websites you are interested in that I have not covered (Such as Figs, since they essentially don't need pruning) by all means let me know and we can add them to the archived-version of this week's tip sheet.
Stone Fruit – In General
Good Sites for Visuals on Fruit Tree Pruning
Until next issue, here's to Great Gardening from the GardenLine, heard exclusively, 6-10 a.m. Saturdays and 7-10 a.m. Sundays, only on NewsRadio 740 KTRH.
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