Have your fruit trees stopped producing fruit? Do you have disease or insect problems on your fruit trees? Has the tree grown too tall to safely harvest the fruit?
Many of these problems are caused by poor or neglected pruning.
A good fruit tree should not make a good shade tree. However, when pruning is neglected, many apples, pears, peaches and other common fruit trees in Connecticut become better shade producers than fruit producers.
Standard-sized trees often outgrow the reach of ladders or pruning hooks. Backyard and commercial growers have come to prefer dwarf or semi-dwarf trees which are not as tall and are easier to prune, spray, and harvest without the use of ladders.
A neglected but otherwise healthy tree will usually show a marked improvement in fruit quality as a result of pruning.
Fruit buds begin developing in the growing season previous to the one in which they mature into fruit, and more are initiated than can be fully developed into fruit. Growing conditions during the season of bud initiation and the subsequent winter will affect the number of buds which flower, and certain cultivars are “alternate bearers” that seldom initiate many buds during a year with a heavy fruit crop.
In any case, by late winter the buds for the coming summer’s crop will be very evident. Buds only appear on two or three year-old twigs or on spurs that are no thicker than a pencil.
Why You Should Prune Fruit Trees
The primary purpose of pruning fruit trees is to increase sunlight penetration, remove less productive wood, and shape the crown into an efficient, stable form.
If fruit trees are left unpruned, the quantity of fruit produced might be greater, but the quality much lower. Pruning increases fruit size, promotes uniform ripening, increases sugar content, and decreases disease and insect problems by allowing better spray coverage and faster drying following rainfall which will help fend off all the different fungal attacks. It also allows easier access for timely harvesting.
For more details, see our article on Pruning Fruit Trees in Connecticut.
The following points apply to pruning all fruit trees:
- Prune late in the dormant season to minimize cold injury.
- Prune heavily on neglected trees or vigorous cultivars, less so on less vigorous cultivars.
- Make all heading back cuts just beyond a bud or branch.
- Make all thinning cuts just beyond the base of the branch being removed.
- Avoid pruning too close.
- Don’t prune a “shade tree” back to a fruit tree in one year. Spread the thinning over several years.
- Wound dressings are unnecessary for trees pruned in dormant season.
- Match pruning tools to the size wood being removed. Use hand shears for small twigs, lopping shears for medium branches, and a saw for larger limbs.
- If there is the presence of any disease and or fungal attacks be sure to disinfect your pruning tools between each cut with a 10% bleach water mix
Give Barts Tree Service a call at 203-240-1302 if you would like a complimentary consultation on pruning your trees or to help in diagnosing or treating any possible ailments.