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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Pruning Fruit Trees in Late Spring

Q. I have added some fruit trees such as Asian pear, peach and apricot to my yard. When is the best time for pruning these trees?

A. The pruning of fruit trees is done for two separate reasons; establishing the architecture or structure of the tree and encourage the production of high quality fruit. There is even a third reason that is not talked about very often and that is helping to keep trees smaller.
Winter pruning establishes the architecture of the tree. The most productive branches are at 45° angles.

Prune at the Time of Planting. When purchasing a tree and its structure needs improvement, you should prune for improved structure immediately after planting and not wait until the end of the growing season.

Prune in Winter Months. With established trees, major improvements to the architecture of an established tree that require a pruning saw or loppers should be done in the winter months. For deciduous fruit trees, it is much easier to see the architecture of the tree when the leaves are gone. Smaller changes in its structure requiring a hand pruners could be done anytime.

Summer Pruning. I encourage summer pruning during the month of April and early May in our climate. Summer pruning focuses on removing aggressive vertical growth that has grown since spring. Sometimes we refer to this growth as “suckers” or “watersprouts”.
Strong vertical growth can be removed very early in the season by pulling downward. This is called summer pruning and helps to reduce interior shading of the tree and improves fruit quality and production. It also helps to dwarf a tree by robbing it of its new growth.
Summer pruning is used to reduce the interior shading of fruit trees which decreases production and helps keep the size of fruit trees smaller. It is also used to take away the future growth potential of a tree. When a tree is pushing new growth it is making an investment in the future. The tree is using stored food reserves for pushing new growth. That tree will recover the food reserves it used and more after its new growth has matured.

Strong vertical growth is seldom fruitful in the short run. Strong vertical growth is used by the tree to gain height. This type of growth should be removed and is easy to do. Pulling downward on immature watersprouts will remove them cleanly and efficiently without using a pruning shears. If you wait too long this growth can no longer be removed by pulling. It must be cut off. This leaves stubs that will sprout in the future.

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