Don’t delay with pruning fruit trees

Agriculture Topics

There are tremendous benefits to pruning fruit trees. The mistake most people make is waiting four or five years after new plants are set out to begin pruning.
Pruning needs to begin the first year. Granted, there is not much to do that first year.  But, if pruning is done from the first year, there is less to do each year and it is not as difficult.
One of the more difficult pruning decisions is on a tree that is five or six years old and has never been pruned. These kind of trees often have a mass of branches and have too much upward growth.
To help people understand proper pruning techniques, we will conduct a tree fruit pruning demonstration on Monday, March 12, at 5 p.m. This demonstration will not include small fruit such as brambles, blueberries, and grapes. The demonstration will be held regardless of the weather, however, there is no shelter at the site, so dress appropriately for the conditions.  
The demonstration will be held at the urban orchard that was established last year behind Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital, Route 33 West of Weston. Turn in the main entrance for the hospital and then follow the road below and behind the hospital. Continue to the end of the parking lot and you will see the orchard.  
These are all young trees, so the demonstration will be how to prune trees in the first few years to establish a strong framework of branches to support fruit loads later on.  While there is typically not much pruning to do on each tree at this young age, this pruning is like the foundation of a building – important for long term success.
Most people know they should prune, but are not sure why, or how to go about it.  
Pruning is very beneficial for young and newly planted trees, because you are forming the permanent shape of the tree and developing a strong foundation for fruit production.  It truly is not that difficult once you understand a few basic concepts.
However, if you have large, overgrown trees, you first need to decide if it is worth your time to prune them.  Even one large tree can be a lot of work for several years.  Not only are you removing a large amount of limbs, removing these limbs from a large tree encourages sprouting all over the tree.  If these sprouts are not removed, you will have a mess of tangled foliage within a few years.
For these reasons, when I am asked about pruning a large tree, I don’t suggest pruning it unless you are committed to pruning the tree every year for several years until the size is under control.  Even then, removing sprouts will be an annual job.  
There is no charge to attend and no pre-registration is necessary to attend the demonstration. It will be held March 12, starting at 5 p.m. and will include only pruning of fruit trees (apple, peach, cherry).

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