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Pruning Fruit Trees

Pruning Fruit Trees

Posted - Jan. 24, 2004 at 7:07 a.m.



This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

Larry A. Sagers Regional Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved

Home Fruit Production with Larry Sagers Thinking of growing fruit trees, have question as to which varieties are best for Utah or have fruit trees that are not producing the way you would like? Come learn how to succeed with your backyard orchard. Topics include soil, fertilizing, variety selection, pollination, planting and pest control.(4 week class meeting 2 hours each week)

Fee: $40.00 If you sign up for all three classes in this series Fruit Production-February, Vegetable Production-March and Preserving and Storage-April the cost is $90. Call 768-7443 for the discount

For additional information, read my column in next Friday’s Deseret Morning News.

The annual rituals of springs are upon us and perhaps none is as intimidating as pruning your trees. Fruit trees, in particular, are a mystery to most. What should stay and what should go? The decisions of what to cut and where are so confusing that many trees go unpruned.

Prune apples and pears because they are the hardiest. Prune them to one of two different systems. Prune older, standard size trees to an open center configuration while dwarf and semi-dwarf trees are pruned to a central leader.

Pruning fruit trees is much different from pruning ornamental trees. Fruit trees need heavy annual pruning to stimulate new growth with many fruit buds. The wood must be in the sunlight for the fruit to size and ripen properly. Fruit also has to grow on healthy, vigorous shoots for best quality.

Clean up the tree. Remove all broken, dead or diseased wood whenever you find it no matter what the season. Otherwise, do most pruning when the trees are dormant because seeing the branches is very easy and see what to remove.

Walk around the tree and look it from several angles as you prune. Take out a problem and then move around the tree, take out another, and just keep removing the less desirable branches. Don’t get too carried away. Never take out more than 20-30 percent of the wood in any one year because that will stimulate excessive growth of watersprouts in the tree.

The cleanup next starts at the base of the tree. Remove all the suckers. These sprouts often come up from the base of the tree and often come from the rootstock. They will never have good fruit. Dig down to the roots and cut them off as close as possible. If you leave base of the suckers they will grow and you will have many more the following season.

Continuing up the tree, look for branches that cross or rub each another. Remove any hanging branches or branches that grow parallel to each other.”

After cleaning out the undesirable wood, focus on letting the light into the tree. Water sprouts are the real culprits here. These shoots are long vegetative sprouts that have no fruit buds. They grow straight into the air and shade out the interior of the tree so other fruit buds do not grow well.

One common mistake when pruning is trying to reduce the height of the tree without taking into account the growth responses. Cutting off the ends of the branches stimulates several buds to grow below the cut. These, in turn, make multiple sprouts that shade the inside of the tree and keep it the fruit from growing well.

Cutting these sprouts off again multiplies the problem. Each cut stimulates several more shoots to grow and makes the problem even worse. The only way to solve the problem is to remove the sprouts clear to the base or cut them to side branches to direct their growth to make the tree spread out to collect more sunlight.

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