Pruning fruit trees in your yard is important for maintaining fruit production, tree health, aesthetics of having a nice small tree in your yard and preventing the branch breakage on trees under the weight of a heavy fruit year.
Sometimes pruning fruit trees can do more harm than good. Always have a reason for making each pruning cut on a fruit tree. Don’t just decide to prune your fruit tree because it’s a nice day and you read somewhere that you are supposed to prune them.
A great time to prune fruit trees is during the winter. During this time; pruning is about working with the structure of the tree, removing damaged or diseased wood, thinning thick dense areas and directing growth. February is a great time for dormancy pruning of fruit trees. With the leaf fall, the tree’s structure is revealed. The whole tree is visible, which makes our choice of pruning cuts clearer. Dormancy is like hibernation for the tree. At the onset of dormancy, a chemical is produced in the buds at the end of each branch. This chemical signals leaf fall and suspends new growth. This allows the tree to conserve the energy and food it’s stored for the winter months ahead.
In addition to seeing the whole structure of the tree, winter pruning also minimizes a wound’s exposure to bacteria and pest. During this time; pruning is about working with the structure of the tree, removing damaged or diseased wood, thinning thick dense areas and directing growth. Fruit trees can also be pruned during the summer, but summer pruning is simply to thin out new sprouts. Summer pruning supports winter pruning as it creates space and directs growth.
Tools for fruit tree pruning:
Prior to making your first cut, it’s important to have the right tools. Below we list the top tools to have on hand for basic fruit tree pruning.
- Hand pruning saw: A hand pruning saw with a sharp blade is important. Many of the nurseries will have adequate saws for cutting branching up to 4’’inches in diameter. It’s useful to have a blade with teeth that are smaller and close together at the tip, then widen further down the blade. This allows you to start the cut with the small teeth. Once you create a groove, use the whole blade to remove the rest of the branch.
- Bypass pruning shears or hand pruner: A garden tool that is used for cutting off the branches of trees and shrubs. Hand pruners are used for cutting small diameter branches.
- Pole pruner or Long reach pruner: A tool for pruning with the cutting parts on the end of a rod or pole 6 to 12 feet long. Oftentimes a long reach pruner is needed to access the top of the tree.
- Orchard ladder: An orchard ladder has 3 legs. The 3rd leg is hinged and can maintain stability on uneven or inclined ground. If you are using a ladder, cut small diameter branches only Orchard ladders are a great investment if you are planning to manage your trees on a regular basis. Consider, if and how your stability will be impacted, if the branch hits the ladder. Go easy and be safe. Never use a regular ladder outside to prune trees.
- Live wood is easily cut with a pruner, while dead wood is best removed with a saw.
- It’s important to sanitize your tool blades between trees. 90% alcohol can be used in a spray bottle. Simply spraying both sides of the blade will clear your saw of diseases that may be spread from tree to tree.
Article by Sydney Eusepi of FlyGirl Trees in Albuquerque, NM and Jill Brown of My Landscape Coach. You can reach Fly Girl Trees at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-363-8105