It is good practice to periodically prune your fruit trees to increase the quality and yield of the crop. Knowing the appropriate times to prune the trees will enhance the strength and health of the trunk and branches so that they can bear the weight of the fruit. Let’s explore when you should and should not trim your fruit trees for a bountiful harvest.
In general, many fruit trees don’t actually require pruning annually once they have an established structure and are producing mature fruit. Young trees do need to be trimmed to encourage thicker branches and wider canopies that allow for more air and sunlight to reach the flowering buds. The wider canopy also discourages the growth of fungus and disease.
Assuming you planted the trees in spring, it is best to trim them shortly after they are planted and have started to take root in the soil. Then, prune again in the summer when there is some new, young growth.
While you are removing new stems from closer to the ground, also trim any side shoots. By doing this you are shaping and training the tree to grow up and out without becoming too top heavy. Don’t expect to get a lot of fruit during the first couple of years.
Pruning After the First Year
It’s important to continue to prune your fruit trees for the first three years after they were planted. The goal is to train the branches and encourage new growth. A good rule of thumb is to clear new growth that is less than 4 inches apart. In other words, keep a clear space of 4 inches between growths in younger trees to allow for adequate air circulation and light infiltration.
You can trim new growth of younger trees every six weeks during growing season. Once the trees stop sprouting new growth you can the wait to trim again until early spring while the trees are still dormant and the buds have not yet sprouted.
Pruning Beyond Three Years
Once the trees have matured and have strong fruit-bearing canopies, continue to prune in early spring. You are now managing the trees by removing dead wood, dropped branches, and wild or errant lateral growth that compromises the structure. It isn’t always necessary to prune mature trees every year.
This is when it is smart to hire an arborist. A trained professional can advise you on the condition of the trees and whether they actually need pruning. He or she can also do this maintenance work using the appropriate tools and ladders for taller trees.
Wrapping it Up
It is important to prune newly planted fruit trees to train them. Continue to prune every 6 weeks while the weather is warm, early spring through the summer, during the first three years. Don’t prune in winter once the trees have stopped producing new shoots and fruit. Minor maintenance pruning is necessary beyond the first three years.