Pruning your fruit tree is essential to its growth, health, and ability to fruit. Without careful pruning, the tree is left with undirected energy and may not produce the desired results. When done correctly, pruning establishes growth and strengthens the overall structure of your tree. However, improper pruning can weaken a tree by reducing its foliage and leaving it susceptible to pests and disease. Knowing the proper time to prune your tree, as well as what type of cuts to make, will promote cultivation.
If you’re in the Oregon area and have fruit trees on your property, caring for your trees can yield a delicious harvest. Learn the basic skills of fruit tree pruning in Portland, Oregon, and your trees will thank you.
Why Prune Fruit Trees?
As mentioned above, pruning a fruit tree will encourage the growth of new shoots and increase structural strength. But these aren’t the only benefits of pruning a tree. Left unpruned, a tree can become a safety hazard with dead, broken, or weak branches threatening to fall on people or property. If a tree has badly positioned branches, it can cause damage to neighboring branches. Cutting off branches that are either damaged or causing possible further damage to the tree allows a tree to focus its energy on growing new branches that are potentially better positioned and stronger.
Pruning also allows for shaping a tree to a desired height and size as well as optimal shape for bearing the weight of fruit. A young tree without a strong framework will bow down from the weight, unable to sustain the fruit it is producing. Improper pruning can also affect the quality of fruit. Older trees that have not been pruned will stifle new growth through over-production, while pruning will stimulate dormant buds to produce new and younger fruiting wood, which ultimately leads to better quality fruit.
Finally, properly pruning your fruit tree protects it against pests and disease and allows light and air to circulate through the tree, eliminating moisture and reducing the risk of air-borne disease and fungal infections. But how do you properly prune a fruit tree to promote beneficial growth?
Know the Right Season
Pruning should be done annually and at the right time of year. Winter is the best season to prune a fruit tree because this is when the tree is dormant. During the winter, trees are less active and store energy for the next season of growth. Making cuts to a tree with more stored energy will allow a tree to heal more quickly. Pruning during an active stage will cause undue stress and encourage growth at the wrong time, producing young branches that cannot withstand the lower temperatures.
Pruning during the winter also allows for better-placed cuts. More of the tree’s structure is exposed once the leaves have dropped, making it easier to see where the best cuts should be made to preserve structural integrity. Fresh cuts also expose a tree to pests and disease. During the winter, these potential infestations and infections are also dormant, reducing the risk of exposure.
Invest in the Proper Tools
Improper pruning can damage your trees, especially if you aren’t using the right tools for the job. Not having the proper equipment can also compromise your personal safety as well as that of surrounding structures and property. These tools can include a hand pruner, lopping shears, pruning saw, rope saw, chainsaw, pole pruner, as well as a sharpening stone. Sharp tools produce the best cuts as well as reduce fatigue. What type of tree will determine which tools are best for the job.
Be sure to sanitize your tools between each cut to ensure potential infections and infestations aren’t spread to other parts of the tree or other trees.
Learn the Basics
Pruning requires proper planning as well as knowing what cuts to make. Plan these cuts properly and do not prune more than one-third of the tree at a time. Over-pruning will encourage excessive shoot growth, which will delay fruiting. The age of your tree will also determine how much to prune. Young trees do not have established root systems and may suffer too much shock from more than light pruning. Allow young trees a season or two before major pruning. Conversely, trees over 25 years old produce better fruit after a more thorough pruning.
When pruning, it’s important to not remove the head of the tree. This is referred to as “tree topping” and will create structural problems. There are different types of pruning cuts used to create various desired effects. Know what you need to accomplish and make the corresponding cut that will produce the desired outcome. Typical cuts include:
- Thinning—removing branches back to a junction with another branch, reducing bulk, and limiting regrowth.
- Heading—partially remove a stem or branch, encouraging lateral growth and fuller new growth.
- Deadheading—removing dead flower heads to encourage new flowers to bloom.
- Pinching—pinching off the terminal bud, promoting fuller growth.
- Shearing—used mostly for hedges to create a shape.
Make the Best Cut
Small branch cutting requires cuts about a quarter-inch above a branch or growth bud. These cuts should be made at an angle away from the bud. Pruning cuts that are made either too close or too far from a bud will negatively impact the tree. A cut made too close to the bud will damage it, while a cut too far away allows for stem rot.
When cutting larger branches, you must keep the branch collar intact. This is the part of the tree where a branch attaches to the trunk or another large branch and is necessary for healing. Cutting too close to the branch collar will interfere with the tree’s ability to heal.
Though basic pruning can be done at home, it’s important for your safety as well as the health of the tree to know your limits. Improper pruning can inhibit your tree’s ability to grow strong and produce fruit while also compromising your safety and that of your property. A professional arborist is trained to perform these tasks quickly and safely so you can mitigate guesswork and maximize enjoyment.
When it comes to fruit tree pruning in Portland, Oregon, our skilled team of arborists at Mr. Tree safely and effectively prunes trees to maintain their health and enhance their overall look. Call Mr. Tree today and enjoy the fruits of your labor.