To support growth and quality, always prune! Prune your to-do list, the negativity from your life, your anxieties and most importantly, your fruit trees. As much as we would love to give you advice on life and how to navigate through it, sadly we are not experts in this field. Luckily, we are experts in fruit trees, so let’s rather focus our thoughts here and explore how we can produce quality fruits through pruning.
Last month, we looked at the basics of pruning and why pruning is so important to the overall health of your fruit trees. You now know why to prune, let’s look at when and how to prune your trees.
When should I prune my trees and how does the time of year impact my pruning results?
This is probably one of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to pruning and it is not as simple to answer as merely giving a time of the year. This will all depend on the goals you are trying to achieve. Here are some general guidelines relating to Winter, Spring and Summer pruning, depending on what your goals are:
Winter pruning is good for young trees, as it promotes growth. During the winter, trees become dormant. This means that they appear as if they are not growing, yet only their roots continue to grow. The tree only uses a small portion of its stored energy during the winter months, saving the majority of it for the spring. When you prune the tree in the winter, it prepares the tree for this sudden, “burst,” of energy when the tree surfaces from dormancy. You have also pruned the branches of lower quality, meaning that the tree does not have to waste energy on the growth of lower quality branches. Trees are bare in the winter, making pruning easier.
Spring pruning has its benefits and downsides too. Pruning in the spring can be beneficial, as its easier to trim the branches that may have died due to the winter cold. The tree has, however, already used some of its energy restoring lower quality branches and this means that less growth will be encouraged than when you prune in the winter.
Summer pruning is beneficial, if you want to keep your fruit trees small. During the summer, your tree will absorb as much energy from the sun as possible and will produce a lot of its own energy (through photosynthesis). Summer may not be the best time of the year to prune your trees, yet it still has some benefits. You can use the summer to cut any branches that are broken or diseased. In the summer, your tree doesn’t store energy; it uses energy. When you prune in the summer, the tree won’t be growing at a rapid rate (this happens in the spring) and will not be able to replace what you have cut quickly. This means that you can use this technique to keep large trees small and to expose fruit, ensuring better quality.
Regardless of the time of year that you prefer, always make sure you are following the below pruning tips:
- Always remove diseased or dead branches and old wood from the tree
- If appropriate, always prune the branches in a manner which allows for ladder placement. Remember the old 50/50 rule; if a side branch is 50% the size of the trunk (or bigger), remove it
- Prune branches that have grown superposed too closely to each other and do not leave any big branches on the top of the tree. If this happens and you leave it, the amount of sunlight accessible to the lower branches is reduced and can also create imbalances in the growth of the trees
- Do not remove more than 1/3 of the wood on the tree, per season
- We are farming sunlight; make sure that you have light penetration throughout the tree. Aim for the Christmas tree shape, rather than the umbrella shape (top heavy), where the smaller branches are on top and the larger branches are on the bottom. When growing apples using the super spindle training system, you should target an even fruiting wall from top to bottom
- Always remove anything that would be in the weed spray zone on in the way of the tractor
Pruning is important and can be complex; with multiple, “do’s and don’ts.” Now that we have covered the benefits, some basics of how to prune and when to prune, I am sure we are all feeling more confident.
If you continue to have some questions, our experts are here to help. Reach out to us today!