Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Fruit tree pruning time

Now that the worst cold winter blasts are hopefully over, dormant season fruit tree pruning should be completed in March prior to bud break. The pruned peach tree in the left foreground looks sparse compared to the unpruned tree to the right. This is as it should be.

Peaches put on a lot of growth and should be pruned hard. They bloom on 1 year old wood and if shoots are left for two years or more, they don't produce fruit. Much of last year's growth should be thinned out to avoid overproduction and allow light into the tree. Excessive fruit production reduces quality and also weighs down branches causing limb breakage.

To balance growth of fruiting wood with peach fruit production, remove one-half to two-thirds of last summer's growth. Space fruiting shoots 6 inches apart remembering to leave long shoots of 12 to 24 inches (they fruit better). On the interior of the tree smaller shoots can be left. Don't worry, you will have plenty of new shoot growth over the season to provide fruiting wood for next year's peach crop.

Little annual pruning is needed on fruiting sour cherries and plums. Bearing apples and pears require a light annual thinning for light penetration. Avoid removal of the short fruiting spurs. Unpruned trees may produce more fruit of lower quality for a few years, that is until growth gets so dense that fruiting on the interior ceases.

Train young trees for a sound structure in the first few years. Then maintain bearing trees with annual pruning for a productive fruit tree.