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How to Prune Fruit Trees

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The time has come for one of the most dreaded of all garden tasks, that of pruning fruit trees. Some gardeners approach it with great trepidation. Pruning requires decisions--knowing the that decision is the right one is sometimes baffling so pruning is postponed thinking it will be easier next year. Don't be misled by such procrastinating thoughts. Fruit trees require pruning the day they are planted and each and every year thereafter. If you are timid about tackling this task, screw up your courage and proceed. Learn to visualize each tree as a finished product. Snipping a branch here and there really won't successfully accomplish the job. Fruit trees are pruned to facilitate the production of high quality fruit. They are pruned much differently than shade trees so don't try to apply these concepts to trees in your landscape. The production of quality fruit requires abundant light in the interior of the tree. Branches that are not going to produce good fruit should be removed. As you prepare to make the assault, remember two concepts: Clean it up and let the light in. Start first with the cleaning up process. Look for any suckers or sprouts that may be growing around the base of the tree. Automatically remove those next to the trunk where they are sprouting. Remove water sprouts, those strong, vigorous, upright shoots in the middle of the tree. They produce no fruit and shade out fruit producing wood. Next, take a look at the top of the tree. Dead, broken, or diseased branches are always pruned away. Remove any branches that cross because rubbing branches open wounds that allow diseases and insects to enter. These can be removed anytime you find them regardless of the season. On most trees, remove wood that hangs down because it produces poor quality fruit. After cleaning out the problem limbs, stand back and take a look at the tree. Fruit trees are solar collectors and if the light does not penetrate the center of the tree, it won't produce high quality fruit. To let the light in, focus on one of two training systems. Training systems are selected when the tree is planted. Once the tree is trained to one system, do not attempt to train it to the other system, as you will frustrate yourself and the tree. Listen next hour and we will discuss the two major training systems that are used for most fruit trees. Larry A. Sagers Regional Horticulturist Utah State University Extension Thanksgiving Point Office

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