Is it Tree-Pruning Time?

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Sun, Sep 28, 2014 - 4:22pm

Like all trees, you prune fruit trees for many reasons:

  • to make the tree a desired shape
  • to remove damaged or dead tissue
  • rejuvenation
  • to promote branching, fruiting

Remember the three "T"s:

  1. use the proper TOOL (clean it when moving from plant to plant!)
  2. at the proper TIME
  3. using the proper TECHNIQUE

TOOL: (links are not recommendations and are examples only)

  • Use hand-pruners (pictured, above) for branches up to 3/4" in diameter
  • Use loppers for branches up to 1 1/2" in diameter
  • Use a pruning saw for any branches thinker than 1 1/2 inches
  • Use hedge shears for thick bushes like hedges (also good in vineyards)

TIME:

  • Despite popular wisdom to the contrary you should usually NOT PRUNE IN LATE AUTUMN when new growth will be needed.
  • Prune winter or spring flowering shrubs after flowering. Example, blueberry.
  • Prune summer or fall blooming shrubs in early spring. Example, grapes.
  • Trees should be pruned in the winter - when they are dormant. It's also easier to see what you are doing when the leaves are off the branches.Timing of dormant pruning is critical. Pruning should begin as late in the winter as possible to avoid winter injury. Apple and pecan trees should be pruned first, followed by cherry, peach, and plum trees. A good rule to follow is to prune the latest blooming trees first and the earliest blooming last. Another factor to consider is tree age. Within a particular fruit type, the oldest trees should be pruned first. Younger trees are more prone to winter injury from early pruning. Dormant pruning is an invigorating process.
  • Summer pruning for thinning eliminates an energy or food-producing part of a tree or shrub. It can begin as soon as the buds start to grow, but it is generally started after new growth is several inches long. To minimize the potential for winter injury, summer pruning should not be done after the end of July. Example, removing "suckers" from roses.

TECHNIQUE:

  • "Heading Cuts"  remove an entire shoot back to a side shoot. When lateral branches are headed into one-year-old wood, the area near the cut is invigorated. The headed branch is much stronger and rigid, resulting in lateral secondary branching. (Older trees can be kept in their allotted spaces by "mold and hold" cuts, which are de-invigorating heading cuts made into two-year-old wood.) You can figure out how old the wood is by looking at the terminal bud scars.
  • "Thinning Cuts" remove only the terminal portion of a shoot (see picture below). This type of cut promotes the growth of lower buds as well as several terminal buds below the cut.

Pruning cuts should be made flush with the adjacent branch, without leaving stubs. Also, when large horizontal cuts are made, they should be slightly angled so that water does not set on the cut surface, allowing the growth of rot and disease organisms.

Many compounds are available as wound dressing or pruning paints. But the best treatment is to make proper pruning cuts and allow the tree to heal naturally.

 

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