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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Citrus Pruning Can Be Exception to Most Rules

Q. I have an older Meyer lemon that produces significant amounts of fruit most years.  However, I understand it should be pruned as a tree with one major trunk.  Mine has two trunks and each fork starts just a few inches off the ground. All trunks develop substantial sucker growth.  Should I eliminate all but one trunk or try to prune the suckers each year from all trunks?
Citrus with narrow crotch between two major "trunks"

A. There are always exceptions to rules. Your decision to break the “one trunk rule” depends on the "quality" of the "fork" you're talking about. In most cases, prune it to a single trunk when it is young with scaffold branches originating at about knee height. This may take a few years.You will have problems with that crotch later as it gets heavier and has to hold more fruit. Get rid of the inside one. I know it is large now but it will help later on. Also remove all sucker growth up to about your knees when it gets tall enough.
            There are two reasons for pruning fruit trees. One is for improving its structure. This is called “training”. The other is for improving fruit production. Citrus seldom needs pruning to improve fruit production but it does require pruning when it is young to improve its overall branching structure.
Good structure makes a tree sturdy enough to hold the weight of its limbs and fruit without breaking.
            If the fork does not have a wide angle between two trunks, approximately 60° or more, then remove the weaker of the two. If the angle is too narrow, over time the fork may not be strong enough to support the weight of older branches plus a load of fruit. Citrus, however, has stronger wood than most fruit trees in this regard. It is a judgement call.
Narrow crotch angles like the top right and left can be problems later on when the tree is expected to hold alot of weight.
            If you are not sure, send me a picture of this fork and I can give you a better opinion. Otherwise, if you think it's wide enough then don't worry about it. With time the sucker growth should stop or at least slow down. Remove suckers by pulling them in early spring rather than cutting them with a shears. If you pull on them when you first see them they will easily pop from the trunk or limb. If you wait too long, they will not.

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