by Avis Licht
Fruit trees give better harvests with good pruning techniques. That said, most people are worried about pruning their fruit trees. If you are one of those folks that hesitate to make that first cut for fear of damaging your trees, FEAR NOT! With these few easy steps you can help your trees and begin the process of learning how to be a great pruner.
Most trees are very forgiving. Of course, there’s lots to learn about what different species need, but there are some techniques that work for all trees.
Be sure to use sharp and sturdy clippers. This will make it easier on you and give better cuts.
Remove dead and diseased wood.
This is only tricky because when the leaves are off the tree sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s dead and what’s alive. Dead branches are usually darker, wrinkled and brittle. To check a branch, rub your finger nail along the branch and if it’s green underneath, it’s alive.
Pests and diseases enter a tree through dead or damaged wood. So this is an easy and useful kind of pruning. Cut the branches back to a live trunk or branch. Remove all dead and diseased wood from the garden. Don’t put it in the compost or shred it. These go to the dump.
Remove crossing branches.
One of the aims of pruning is to open up the tree to air and light. Cut back all crossing and overlapping branches. Remove one of the crossing branches and leave the other.
Remove weak branches.
Usually you want to remove thin and weak branches and leave only the most vigorous. But if your tree is young and doesn’t have many branches, leave some of the weaker branches that will produce leaves and feed the tree. Come back next year and prune those branches.
Suckers are the fast growing branches at the base of the tree below the graft. Keep these cut back throughout the year. They are from the root stock and you do not want them. There are also suckers higher up in the tree that grow fast and straight up. These are water shoots and will not fruit. They create shade to the tree. Take these out in mid to late summer.
Keep your shears clean and sharp. Remove all dead leaves and branches from the tree.
If you follow these simple rules you’ll do great good and no harm to your trees. Soon I’ll give you tips on pruning your fruit trees in more detail. In the mean time you should have a look at this simple pruning video from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply.