TIME TO PRUNE THOSE FRUIT TREES
Hello fellow Earthlings and welcome to the documentary "George Washington,
America's first fruit tree pruning expert". I'm not sure how good he was at
running the country, but he gave that cherry tree hell. This is the third
and final installment on deciduous fruit trees. We have covered feeding,
dormant spraying, and this installment is pruning for tree health as well
as maximum fruiting. So let's take a stroll down to the fruit trees with
all our pruning weapons in hand... Don't forget your gloves.
Fruit tree pruning is an art form that is not at all difficult to excel at,
and it is very easy to mess up as well. The wonderful part about a messed
up pruning job is that it only lasts for one year. The tree forgives you
and gives you another chance the following year. I'm here to help you avoid
those mishaps and to help you to help your tree be happy and fruitful in
the spring and summer.
In this column we will be covering basic techniques for the most common
types of fruit trees grown residentially. First we will touch on the
pruning tasks that are universal to each of the fruit types we will cover
here. If you have any questions that require a more detailed response
e-mail or call me with your question at the numbers at that always appear
at the end of my column.
When pruning deciduous fruit trees it is always helpful to remember three
steps to a good basic pruning job.
1. Eliminate all dead or diseased wood.
2. Eliminate crossing or touching branches in favor of the stronger growth
3. Keep the center of the tree clear of branches for good air circulation.
These three steps will assure you of a pruning job that keeps your fruit to
the outside of the tree for easy picking, keeps the center of the tree open
for air circulation that will reduce pest and disease problems, and keep
the tree tidy and free of decaying wood that serves no purpose. Some
specific information regarding the most often grown fruit trees is as
follows and speaks of the age of "fruiting" wood. For example, wood that
was formed during last year's growing season will be considered second year
wood and wood that was formed two seasons ago is referred to as third year
wood. Wood that will be formed during the growing season coming will be
call first year wood.
Apples and pears; Most fruit is formed on second and third year wood.
Apples and pears produce a type of fruiting wood called a spur. Spurs are
where a lot of fruit can be produced, they look exactly like stunted
branchlets and should be saved unless dead or in a spot where they conflict
(cross) with other growth. Apples and pears also produce fruit along the
middle section of second year wood. Apples and pears do best when pruning
is limited to cleaning and shaping. No more than 25% of the previous year's
growth should be removed to maximize fruit production.
Apricot, Peach. Plum, Nectarine; Due to the briefness of this column, I
must group these trees together. Most of the fruit for all of these fruit
varieties is formed on second and third year wood. Plums can also form
spurs like Apples and this growth formation should be saved whenever
possible. Crossing branches should always be eliminated and the long
whip-like growth that was formed last year on some branches can be reduced
up to 60%. Apricots also produce these whips and they can be treated
similarly. Most of the fruit is produced in the middle third of the growth
that was formed last season (second year wood). All precaution should be
taken to preserve this wood whenever possible. Having an open center is
very important to all of these varieties of trees to reduce the possibility
of disease and pest infestations. It is always a good thing to apply a
dormant spray immediately after pruning to seal and disinfect and open cuts
in the tree before next year's growth begins. My favorite pruning sealer is
good old Elmer's white glue. Rub it or brush it on the open cults in your
tree to seal out bad guys.
Pruning your fruit trees is not nearly as daunting a task as many like to
make it. Simply cleaning your tree of dead wood, elimination of crossing
branches, and shaping your tree is often enough for residential fruit trees
so they maintain their shape and attractiveness in the garden. Next we will
be spending the entire month of February on roses. I'll see you in the Garden!
Look for Don's book Natural Gardening A-Z from Hay House at bookstores everywhere and at all online booksellers and check out Don's columns in Hearst's Healthy Living Magazine coming soon.
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