Pruning Fruit Trees
I got the opportunity to take a workshop on how to prune fruit trees! Here are the notes I took during that workshop. This advice is somewhat specific to the Midwest/ NE Ohio
Philosophy of Pruning
- More Light and Air
- More light means more fruit
- Good airflow prevents disease
- Control/promote growth
- Trees want to be pruned
- Makes remaining fruit bigger and tastier because there is limited sugar
- Wipe down tools with alcohol between trees and especially when dealing with disease
- Remove old fruit, fruit is a disease vector
- both mummified fruit still on the branches, and also fruit on the ground
- Black nut
- Looks like a burnt tumor
- Can kill an entire tree
- Always prune before anything else, remove at minimum the diseased portion of the branch
- Cytospora Canker (I think? I may have misheard)
- looks like a messed up drippy branch
- not as big a deal
- ideally, prune before dry spell
- the forcast should show no rain for the next 3-ish days
- Prune early to get the growth done before fruit time
- Put compost around tree in the fall.
- Sometimes you get a lot of fruit one year and almost none the next year.
- Cut off half the blooms. Breaks the cycle of extra.
- When to do this depends on what they did last year, it’s a vibe. you’ll get to know your trees.
It’s really hard to convert between the two, you have to kinda commit.
- open center
- classic fruit tree shape
- common in home orchards
- good for short trees
- Central Leader
- Christmas tree shape
- branches in distinct layers
- a very straight trunk
- no large splits in the main trunk
- very horizontal branches
How to Actually Prune
- Don’t take out more than 1/3rd of tree per year
- removing too much would shock the tree, which can reduce production or kill the tree
- Keep tree short for your convenience
- If you need room to mow under the tree, it may also make sense to remove low hanging branches.
- Make flat smooth cuts
- Motorized saw will make a more ragged cut, its smoother done by hand
- Cut right after a branching point.
- Think of it like a highway,
- you can’t go from a 4 lane highway to a 1 lane highway, you have to go from a 4 to a 3 to a 2 to a 1
- in the same way, you have to gradually reduce the branch size.
- you also shouldn’t chop off a large branch so the highway just ends. ideally, there is a similar size branch right there for the energy to go into.
- Energy needs somewhere to go. Not hard and fast rule though.
- For large cut, cut at an angle with the apex pointing towards where you want new branch to go.
- The base of a branch is wrinkly. it contains healing cells, cut after that part
- Keep tree balanced
- The tallest part will keep being the tallest part unless we stop it
- Neglected trees will have more drastic cuts, managed trees will have smaller cuts
- Very very hard to prune a tree so much it dies
Notes on specific kinds of trees
- Cherries are jerks, they want to get real tall
- Plums are susceptible to black nut (apples are also in NE Ohio).
- pears/apples tend to be central leaders
- if you want them to be tall, central leader is great
- if short, open center
- they like to be upright
- Trees are very resilient, and difficult to harm as long as you don’t prune more than 1/3rd of the total tree
- Pruning make a tree healthier and produce more
- Pruning is not particularly hard, or time consuming. 5-10 minutes per year for a dwarf tree
- It’s about kinda knowing a tree and observing what it does when you prune it, over the years.
Overall, the whole process is was less scary than it seemed before!