It is time to prune any fruit trees you have. It should be started when they are young to improve tree structure for the rest of it’s life, but can be done on a tree of any age if you are determined. It is best done in late winter. This will insure that they grow into a tree which is easy to pick from for years to come, improves fruit quality, resists disease, and will not break under its load when bearing heavily.
If you’ve never done it before, pruning fruit trees can be intimidating since it requires making some bold cuts. However, it’s such an important part of growing fruit that it is definitely worth learning a few basic techniques. Pruning a tree is actually fairly easy to do and does not take much time. Even a newbies like us should be able to prune a young tree in less than 15 minutes once they get the hang of it.
Pears and apples are known as pome fruit. Cherries, apricots, and peaches are known as stone fruit. They are pruned differently, and you must know the difference in how to do this before you start. It is easier than I thought it would be, but a bit of time is needed to learn.
Here are a few 2 minute videos to start you out. This one is on a young peach tree.
Here is a good 2 minute video on pruning a young apple tree.
Some basic, but important, rules:
~Don’t prune cherry trees until after they bear in the summer.
~You want somewhat of an ‘open center’ for good sunlight penetration and air circulation.
~You want strong branches which come out of the trunk at 45 degrees. Greater or lesser angle makes for a poor weight-bearing branch later in the life of the tree.
~You want to encourage outward growth of coming limbs. Where you cut determines which way the new branch will head. This is called a heading cut.
Here is another 3 minute video for a young peach which has some additional info which I found helpful. The whole Peaceful Valley/Grow Organic site is helpful and contains lots of good videos on pruning other things like grapes, hardy kiwi, raspberries and blackberries, as well as, planting trees, and lots of other gardening practices.
When we were selectively ‘trimming back’ our little orchard (only 9 trees at this point), we soon understood the real reason we prune. It is to encourage correct growth and a excellent outcome. As we worked, our minds were making all kinds of associations to the pruning God does in our lives. It makes so much sense when YOU are THE PRUNER (aka the vine-dresser, the husbandman, the gardener)! Every cut has a desired future goal.
One of the reasons I am so sad that our culture is moving more and more away from an sustainable and simpler lifestyle is because we are losing our understanding of these foundational principles in life!
How wonderful to teach these concepts to our children and their children as we teach and work side by side in the orchard/garden. Purposeful teaching is necessary for leaving a rich biblical legacy for our families.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. ” ~John 15: 1-2