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Every February, as the sap starts to rise in the fruit trees, gardeners around the world prepare for the pruning season. Pruning a fruit tree may seem like a daunting task, but with a little know-how it can be easy and rewarding. In this post, we'll discuss the basics of fruit tree pruning, including when to prune and how to prune your tree for optimum growth. And we’ll help you decide if and when to hire a professional. So read on to learn more about this very important gardening task!

Pruning Fruit Trees Basics

Fruit trees need regular maintenance and pruning. By pruning a fruit tree, you open up the tree canopy to allow more sunlight into the inner parts of the tree. Fruit requires sunlight to ripen and if old branches and leaves are creating a shade cover for the fruit, you won’t have the opportunity to bite into a juicy peach or apple come summertime. Removing old branches also improves the airflow within the fruit tree canopy, which decreases the likelihood that the tree will develop a fungal problem. If you think you’re ready to grab your shears and get started, here are a few simple tips to bear in mind:

Timing

Hands down, landscaping experts agree that winter is the best time to prune a fruit tree. When the tree is dormant, the tree is less susceptible to disease and fungus spread, and the tree can take the time it needs to regroup and grow new branches in the spring when temperatures are moderate and rain is plentiful. Typically, November to March is an excellent time to prune fruit trees.

Equipment

Every serious gardener owns at least one or more of these pruning tools:

Hand Pruners. Small and compact, these are used to prune small branches up to a half inch in diameter. You have two styles to choose from: Anvil or Bypass. Both work well, but the Bypass pruners operate more like scissors and although more expensive than the Anvil straight blade style, the curved cutting blade of the Bypass pruners will often give you a cleaner cut.

Lopping Shears.

This is the parent version of hand pruners. Equipped with a pair of long handles, these shears can cut branches up to two inches in diameter. These also come in both the Anvil and Bypass style blades.

Chainsaws. 

These can be used for pruning large branches, and they come in a variety of sizes. Our favorite is a mini, hand-held size that lets you cut large branches with ease without pulling out the big guns. Typically, a full-sized chainsaw is used for removing trees that are damaged or disease, or for cutting firewood.

Pole Pruners. 

Every professional landscaping company has one of these in their landscaping toolkit. These poles extend your reach and allow you to cut otherwise inaccessible branches. Pole pruners come with a saw head or blade and can be made from many different materials. Wooden poles are sturdy but are also a bit heavy and unwieldy. Aluminum poles are light-weight, but because they are metal, they will also conduct electricity if used close to electrical wires.

Ladder. 

The best kind of ladder for pruning fruit trees is the orchard ladder. This type of ladder is stable on soft, uneven ground because of its distinctive three-legged stance. Orchard ladders give you a stable platform to prune from and because of their triangle construction, they let you work high and close to the tree.

Gloves. 

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Leather gloves that are thick and sturdy will offer you the best protection against thorns, branches, or other sharp objects while pruning trees. 

Best Time of Year To Prune Your Fruit Trees

Last Minute Tips

Regardless of what type of fruit tree you may be trimming, it’s important to remember that the goal of pruning is always two-fold: full fruit production and aesthetics. Although it is always appropriate to remove weak, dead, or diseased wood and root suckers, you should take care to remove only what is needed. If you prune regularly throughout the life of your fruit tree, you will only need to remove shoots and small branches each time. Everything that is removed should be done in a way that enhances the overall shape and health of the tree.

Pruning mature trees will increase fruit production and quality. Make sure your pruning tools are sharpened and replace any blades that have become dull or rusty. Proper cleaning and sanitizing your tools will help avoid spreading disease from infected trees. And as always, store your tools in a clean, dry place.

When And How To Prune Fruit Trees

While winter is a clear favorite for the best time of year to prune, that doesn’t mean that you can’t prune your trees in the spring or summer. Pruning in different seasons offers different benefits and is done for different reasons.

Spring

If you prune fruit trees in spring, it’s important to be cautious to not prune out too many branches. Trimming too many branches at once could cause an excessive loss of sap, which has the potential to lower the amount of fruit the tree can yield. If you must prune during this season, prune in early spring when the plant is still dormant and before buds break.

Summer

Summer pruning is best done when you aren’t overly concerned about the amount of fruit that you will get. It may also be a good time to really cut back a tree that is overgrown or has not been treated in many years. However, over pruning at this time of year can result in leaves being removed, which can actually expose the fruit or the trunk of the tree to sunburn. Many pruning activities such as improving the overall look of the tree, or removing dead branches, are best done during the growing season because they are more clearly seen and identified.

Fall

Looking to prune fruit trees in the fall? If so, wait until the late fall, when the fruit tree has become dormant. During this season, it is also easier to see where to make cuts after all the leaves have dropped.

Winter

In general, winter is considered to be the best time to prune trees, as the tree is dormant at this time of year and the cuts are less susceptible to insects or disease. During winter, you have ultimate access to the structure of the tree without any leaves getting in the way, so get after it! However, you do want to be careful when pruning at this time of year. Take special care if your tree is young or very old, especially if you plan to make big cuts. When a tree limb is cut, the tissue around that cut makes the limb somewhat more cold sensitive. If your outdoor temperature falls below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, wait to prune. Once a cut is made, the tree becomes less and less sensitive as it repairs the cuts, and it will eventually return to its former hardiness level within ten days of making a cut.

When To Hire A Professional

Pruning fruit trees is no joke. Ladders are involved and extra sharp tools and you also have to find the confidence to get crazy with your shears during the right time of year. Did you overcut? Was it not time to cut? Will you EVER ENJOY APPLES FROM YOUR YARD AGAIN? It’s a lot of pressure.

If you’re confident in your pruning skills, by all means, gather up your tools and get right down to business. However, If you don’t feel comfortable on a ladder, or if you’re prone to cut your finger every time you slice a bagel in half and sharp tools make you nervous. Or you have anxiety over giving your five-year-old a buzzcut, this might not be the right project for you.

There’s nothing wrong with calling in a professional team.

Big Rock Landscaping can help you find the answers to all of your pruning questions. They have a passion for creating the perfect outdoor space for families, whether that be expansive lawns and landscaping spaces or an abundant fruit orchard.

The team at Big Rock Landscaping is committed to providing an unparalleled level of customer service and professionalism. We have the best artistic tools, professional resources, and design expertise as well as installation and maintenance services in both commercial and residential areas along the Wasatch Front. And that’s a statement we can stand behind. We provide a variety of different maintenance, design, and installation services, so don’t wait to contact Big Rock Landscaping today to help you with your landscaping needs.

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