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How NOT to Prune a Fruit Tree

The 3 Big Do-Nots of DIY Fruit Tree Pruning

Its pruning time for most of our deciduous fruit trees and while there are many things you can and should do, there are a few things that you should never ever do.  So instead of talking about everything you should do, I want to mention the most important things to not do, so your trees stay healthy and productive for years to come.

  1. Never cut in the middle of a branch.  Also called “top-cutting” or “heading cuts” these are cuts made in the middle of a branch or at a bud.  Although often advocated (even among fruit tree experts) to stimulate growth and maximize production, these types of cuts promote excessive branching and are not good for the long-term health of your tree.  Instead always make your cuts at a point of connection, just beyond the branch collar (see image).  This type of cut allows the tree to heal more rapidly and does not cause excessive branching.  Following this rule will ensure a much healthier, happier, and long lived tree
  2. Never prune a tree, without first understanding its fruiting habit!  All too people ask me why they did not get fruit from their tree last year and I have to tell them its because they removed all of their fruiting wood.  Different trees fruit on different types of wood, some, like apples, produce fruit on long lived spurs, while other types like peaches produce fruit on last years growth.  Below is a table with some common fruits and their fruiting habit.

Trees that fruit on current seasons’ growth

  • Fig (generally have two crops, one from last years growth, and then a fall harvest on current new growth
  • Mulberry
  • Persimon
  • Quince
  • Walnut

Trees that fruit on growth from the previous season

  • Fig (first crop)
  • Nectarine & Peach (last year’s growth has a greenish red color)
  • Quince

Trees that form spurs (these are short stubby branches usually less than 6 inches long with very dense clusters of buds)

  • Almonds
  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Cherry
  • Pear
  • Plums, pluots, & other hybrids
  • Pomegranite

3. Never use ANY kind of wound sealant on pruning cuts! Time and again research has found these kinds of treatment to be ineffective at best, and harmful at worst.  The best way to keep you trees healthy is by using good tools (I never leave home without my Felcos J ) with sharp blades and making proper cuts at branch connections.

For more detailed information and pictures showing  good pruning practices and techniques check out this power point created by Tom Del Hotal, chair of the San Diego Rare Fruit Grower Society.

http://www.crfgsandiego.org/Presentations/Fruit%20Tree%20Pruning%20Basics.pdf

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