Before spring really gets going, it’s time to take care of the fruit trees in your yard. Whether it be a dwarf apple or large peach, fruit trees need annual care to grow properly and produce. Spraying dormant deciduous trees with a summer horticultural oil spray when temperatures are above 40°F is a good way to kill any overwintering insects and eggs before the trees leaf out. But the main job in late winter is pruning. Here’s some tips on pruning the most common types of fruit trees.
The Three D’s- No matter the time of year, it’s always good to prune off the dead, diseased and distressed or broken branches. Cut them back to live growth on the tree.
Open It Up- On established trees the goal is to remove crossing or rubbing branches and branches that are growing towards the center of the tree. This will open up the tree allowing air and light to better penetrate to prevent disease and grow better quality fruit.
Good Angles- Favor branches that have a good crotch angles. The angle should be 45 to 60 degrees. A too narrow angle or wide angle won’t be strong enough to hold maturing fruits.
Pruning Cuts- When pruning with a sharp by-pass hand pruner, cut just above a bud that’s facing the direction you want the future branch to grow. Cut on a 45 degree angle so water doesn’t accumulate on the cut and cause rotting.
Apples, Pears and Cherries- Prune these semi-dwarf trees to a modified leader system. This means the leader or main trunk is topped and the new trunk or branch that forms to replace to starts growing below the cut. Pears are unique because many varieties want to grow straight up. To encourage better crotch angles use metal washes attached to VELCRO® Brand Plant Ties to weigh down the branch for one growing season to encourage it to grow more horizontally.
Peaches and Plums- Prune these trees to an open center pattern. This means removing the center branches and having an open vase shape in the center of the tree.
Meet Charlie! Catch me live at the Philadelphia Flower Show (March 9-10) and Chicago Flower & Garden Show (March 16-17). Stop by and say hi…. and get a free VELCRO® Brand Plant Tie giveaway if you attend my talk!