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Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Basics on Pruning Apricots and Persian Lime - the basic tree architecture is the same

Q. Could you send me a couple of directions relative to pruning Persian lime and apricot?  Also, any schedule of classes on pruning that might help me.  I am a chef and have some limited time.

A. I will give you my best shot at it without seeing it. Pruning is not a hard science and there are a lot of decisions that have to be made that are very specific to each tree.
Apricot spurs

            Apricots fruit on short flowering branches called spurs. It is important not to remove these short shoots. You will want to open the tree canopy to admit sunlight into the interior. You do this by eliminating the trunk at about 4 feet off of the ground.

            This should result in about eight or so major limbs that come from the trunk. These major limbs should originate from the trunk starting at about the height of your knee and ending around 4 feet off of the ground. These limbs should radiate from the trunk, ideally, so that about two limbs occupy about one fourth of the canopy (about eight total limbs).

            These limbs should radiate from the trunk in a pattern similar to spokes on a wheel so that they do not shade each other. The spacing of the major limbs coming from the trunk is such that hopefully there is at least a foot or more between limbs that originate on top of each other to prevent shading.
Young apple tree showing how limbs radiate from the trunk
using a birdseye view of the young tree. Yes, we prune
apple trees in our moderately high density orchard in an
open center fashion.

            These major limbs may have fruiting spurs coming from them but their primary purpose is to support smaller limbs that have the majority of the fruiting spurs. These smaller limbs should be at a 45° angle, as close as possible, from vertical. This provides the perfect angle for creating flowering spurs.

            Limbs that grow mostly up or mostly down should be eliminated at their source leaving no stubs. As you are finishing your pruning these major limbs should resemble a fan that radiate from the trunk in a fashion so that they do not shade each other, give balance to the canopy and allow filtered light to penetrate to the interior.

            Persian lime is also known as Tahiti lime or a selection of Tahiti called Bearss which is nearly seedless. Regarding the lime, it should be pruned in a similar fashion but the fruiting does not occur on short spurs. Rather, the fruiting occurs on new growth, frequently in the spring after new growth begins to emerge but it can flower later in the year.

            The biggest problem you might have will be protecting the tree from early freezing temperatures and the loss of fruit production because of these freezing or cold temperatures. The concept will be similar in arranging your major limbs to the apricot.

            Citrus usually does not require as much pruning so after you get the major structure established on your tree, you will mostly remove growth which is growing downward, upward or crossing each other besides any broken or damaged branches, limbs or stems. I hope this helps.

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