by Fred Roundstone
(Angmering, West Sussex, UK)
One of the many things that need to be included in the care of seasonalfruit trees is all-important factor of pruning. As had been discovered by our ancestors who started cultivating fruit trees, pruning is decidedly good because it encourages re-growth.
As your fruit trees grow, they need two pruning stages. The first one is when the tree is young. The cuts should be carefully selected for the primary scaffold. The same thing is done during heading and thinning to create the secondary scaffold.
The second phase should be done on 5-year-old trees or older. This is where the fruiting wood is maintained and renewed by thinning and heading. Thinning is the removal of branches to create space for aeration, light penetration and fruit maturation.
Plants and trees can be pruned any time of the year. It depends on how fast your plant is growing and when it flowers. How much to cut depends on how crowded the branches and leaves are. Seasonal fruit trees favor certain times of the year to be pruned to get the best results.
Pruning deciduous trees (apples, pears and stone fruits) in the winter – when they are dormant and have no leaves – will make them grow more vigorously in the spring. Winter pruning is specially recommended for young fruit trees to encourage their growth.
Dormant season pruning begins in late December and continue till February. All deciduous fruit trees can be pruned, except for apricots. Apricots should be pruned after harvest, or in August or September.
Pruning other fruit trees in summer will make them grow slower the following spring. This is because summer pruning reduces the number of leaves to produce food to be stored in the roots. Less food means buds will grow less vigorously and will grow slower in the spring.
Summer pruning is good however for full-sized or overgrown trees to slow down their growth. These plants that have not been pruned in years should be partly pruned in the summer and later in the winter.
Summer pruning, aside from controlling unwanted growth, helps enhance light and air penetration into the canopies of fruit trees to encourage secondary branching. It is also good for those who want to keep their trees smaller.
Spring pruning does not speed up or slow down growth, but it is a good time to check which branches produce fruit and those that don’t. It is also a good time to remove suckers and watersprouts (branches that grow straight up).
There are other important things in the care of seasonal fruit trees(fertilizing, watering, fighting off harmful pests, etc.) and pruning is one important aspect that must not be left out.