If you want your fruit trees to remain healthy and productive, it is important for you to prune them regularly. Unfortunately, a bad pruning job can be just as detrimental to a fruit tree as not pruning it at all. To ensure your pruning job is as helpful as possible, follow these four basic tips.
Only prune when the tree is dormant.
The best time to prune your fruit tree is in the late winter or early spring before buds have begun to appear. If you wait too long to prune the tree, it will waste all of its energy on this new growth, only to have it pruned away. Pruning a non-dormant tree also increases the risk of the cut edges becoming infected with fungus.
Remove older branches first.
When branches get too old, they stop producing fruit. Thus, it is these branches – not the new ones – that you want to eliminate first. To tell the difference between old and new branches, look at the color of the wood. Old branches are completely brown. If you can see any hint of green through the bark, that branch is rather new, and you should leave it on the tree, if possible. If you have removed a substantial number of older branches from a given area of the tree and it still seems too dense, then start removing some of the new branches – but do so sparingly.
Prune with the goal of exposing branches to sunlight.
The more sunlight a particular branch receives, the more productive it will be. Thus, your goal when pruning should be to trim away some growth at the top of the tree to allow sunlight to reach the deeper, lower branches. Try to visualize the tree with leaves on it. Look at each lower branch and ask yourself if it would receive sunlight, or if the branches above it would block all of the sun. If your answer is the latter, then prune away some upper branches to expose that lower branch more fully.
Make clean cuts.
Ensure that the shears you are using are sharp. If they are dull, they will make jagged cuts, which take longer for the tree to seal off and heal and are more susceptible to fungal infections. If your shears are feeling dull, many hardware stores offer sharpening services and will sharpen them for you.
Pruning a tree takes time and attention to detail. If you are not confident in your ability to prune a fruit tree by yourself, consider hiring a professional to do so for you. This way, you can be confident that your tree will enter the growing season in great shape. For more information or assistance, contact a landscaping company like Valentino Lawncare.