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General Pruning of Fruit Trees Robert Ll. Morris, Orchard Volunteer Extremehort@aol.com Blog: http://xtremehorticulture.blogspot.com Preparing your equipment for pruning Pruners should be bypass type. Hand shears and loppers. Recommended brand names include Corona, Felco and Fiskars.  Sharpen. Sharpen one side of the blade only holding the stone at a consistent angle and running it along the beveled edge.  Adjustment and Lubricate. An adjustment nut that holds the pruners together is tightened or loosened to allow for easy opening and closing of the shears and lopper. Too loose and the shears or loppers tears the branch. Too tight and it creates early fatigue of the person pruning.  Sanitize. Alcohol is sprayed or wiped on the cutting blades of the hand shears and lopper. Pruning Cuts. There are only two types of pruning cuts; thinning cuts and heading cuts. Thinning cuts are made anywhere where two branches come together. The thinning cut totally removes one of the branches without leaving a stub. Thinning cuts result in a less dense canopy. Heading cuts are made anywhere along a branch NOT at a location where two branches come together. Heading cuts result in several new branches at buds growing immediately below the cut. Heading cuts are used to shorten the past season’s growth to increase its strength and diameter and encourage the development of short shoots that support fruit called spurs in fruit trees that grow fruit on spurs. The most productive branches for fruit growth and development are at 45 degree angles above horizontal and should be preserved whenever possible. Branches are less productive as they are grow more vertically (more upright or downward). Pruning for Size Control. We keep the size of all fruit trees so that the orchard is ladderless and easy and safe to perform work and harvest. Initial pruning for size control can begin before leaf drop, usually in November when leaves are beginning to turn color and we are sure all tree growth has stopped for the remainder of the year. Trees heights are lowered to 6 to 6 ½ feet tall using thinning cuts. The tallest limbs are identified and lowered to the proper height with thinning cuts. Limbs that do not support fruit high enough to keep the fruit off of the ground or out of the reach of rabbits is removed with thinning cuts. Limbs that are heavily shaded or supporting fruit growth in hard to reach places is removed with thinning cuts. Trees are pruned around the perimeter so that these pruned spaces will provide total movement around the tree without knocking fruit on the ground. Tree Structure


Scaffold limbs arise from the trunk (primary). Secondary scaffolds arise from primary scaffolds. Tertiary scaffolds arise from secondary scaffolds. The purpose of scaffold limbs are to support the fruit, other limbs and stems and leaves.  There is usually no more than 5 or 6 primary scaffold limbs arising from the trunk. These primary scaffolds arise from the trunk pointing in different compass directions like spokes on a wheel.  Most of the trees in the orchard are pruned in an open center structure. This means that the highest scaffold limb is no higher than about 30 inches above the soil. Prune branches so that the fruit can hang without getting bruised or scarred by other branches.

Pruning for Production. Production Pruing of Apple and Pear Pruning Cuts (the easy ones to recognize)  Prune so that you can get down the aisles easily. Use thinning cuts whenever possible.  Prune so that you can move around a tree. Use thinning cuts whenever possible.  Prune so that fruit can be harvested without a ladder. Prune the finished heights at 6 to 6 ½ feet tall. Use thinning cuts whenever possible.  Prune so that you can reach the fruit without knocking down other fruit. If you cannot reach the fruit, pruning should remove that production wood. Use thinning cuts whenever possible.  Remove wood growing back toward the interior unless you can pick fruit from it.  Remove dead, broken or a crossing branch. Apple spurs  Remove vigorous growth that is going straight up or straight down unless they are spurs (short, fruit producing stems). Use thinning cuts whenever possible. The most productive growth is growing at 45 degree angles (halfway between horizontal and vertical). Actual Pruning Process Do these easy cuts first:  Lower the height  Prune to keep the growth out of the aisles  Prune so that you can walk around a tree  Prune so that fruit does not touch the ground


  

Heading cuts can be used to cut back long stems that resulted from vigorous growth. If last year’s growth was more than two feet long, cut back to about 18 inches or so. New growth is initiated immediately below a heading cut (usually three stems are initiated from a single heading cut about six inches below that cut). Heading cuts can be used to help initiate spurs along a stem. Spurs are usually initiated about 12 inches below a heading cut.

Now Work on the Framework or Architecture of the Tree  Start from the bottom of the tree and work up each primary scaffold  Next work on the secondary scaffolds and tertiary creating distance between the scaffold limbs. The larger the fruit, the greater the distances.  Finally check the tree one last time before moving to the next tree Production Pruning Apricots and Plums Background  Remove vigorous growth that is going straight up or straight down unless they are spurs (short, fruit producing stems). Use thinning cuts whenever possible. The most productive growth is growing at 45 degree angles (halfway between horizontal and vertical). Apricot spurs Tree Structure  Scaffold limbs arise from the trunk (primary). Secondary scaffolds arise from primary scaffolds. Tertiary scaffolds arise from secondary scaffolds. The purpose of scaffold limbs are to support the fruit, other limbs and stems and leaves.  There is usually no more than 5 or 6 primary scaffold limbs arising from the trunk. These primary scaffolds arise from the trunk pointing in different compass directions like spokes on a wheel.  Most of the trees in the orchard are pruned in an open center structure. This means that the highest scaffold limb is no higher than about 30 inches above the soil.  Prune branches so that the fruit can hang without getting bruised or scarred by other branches. Actual Pruning Do these easy cuts first:  Lower the height  Prune to keep the growth out of the aisles  Prune so that you can walk around a tree


Plum spurs     

Prune so that fruit does not touch the ground Heading cuts can be used to cut back long stems that resulted from vigorous growth. If last year’s growth was more than two feet long, cut back to about 18 inches or so. New growth is initiated immediately below a heading cut (usually three stems are initiated from a single heading cut about six inches below that cut). Heading cuts can be used to help initiate spurs along a stem. Spurs are usually initiated about 12 inches below a heading cut.

Now Work on the Framework or Architecture of the Tree  Start from the bottom of the tree and work up each primary scaffold  Next work on the secondary scaffolds and tertiary creating distance between the scaffold limbs. The larger the fruit, the greater the distances.  Finally check the tree one last time before moving to the next tree Production Pruning of Peach and Nectarine Make simple and obvious cuts. Use thinning cuts. • Remove branches that will bear fruit which will touch the ground when ripe. • Remove dead or broken branches. • Remove branches growing back toward the center of the tree. • If two branches are crossing, remove one. • Remove strong, vigorous growth in the center of the tree. Do not remove too much. You want some shading of the scaffold limbs to prevent borer infestation. You will paint scaffold limbs with diluted white latex paint after pruning. Prune and remove branches so that fruit will have enough room to grow and move in the wind without being damaged by other branches. Use thinning cuts at crotches. Thin out fruit bearing wood. The amount to remove is determined from table 1, and how long fruit bearing wood stays productive (spur life). • In peaches and nectarines remove 50% of the remaining wood including last year's growth.


General pruning  

General introduction to pruning fruit trees and keeping them small.

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