Fruit and Ornamental Tree Pruning

Fruit Tree Pruning

If there's one group of plants that demands regular and careful pruning, it's deciduous fruit trees. Taste the sweetness of a perfectly ripe pear or apricot: That sweetness represents energy. Producing luscious fruits demands lots of energy, which comes from the sun, and one goal of pruning is to help all the limbs on your tree bask in as much sunshine as possible.

Pruning also has other benefits. It's the way to strike a balance between shoot growth and fruit production, so important in ensuring that your tree bears the largest and tastiest fruits year after year. And keeping branches open to light and air also speeds drying of leaves and fruits, decreasing diseases, and allows sprays to penetrate if spraying is needed.

Pruning stimulates new growth, controls the tree size, and improves the size and quality of the fruit. The first goal of pruning is to remove dead or diseased branches and to create a strong branch structure. Trees with strong branch angles and few overlapping or competing limbs have a better chance of a long, productive life.

Pruning can control the growth rate of a tree. Heavy pruning stimulates lots of new growth but less fruit production. However, pruning too little can result in a crowded tree with poor branching and yields. Most gardeners have the latter problem. By regulating how much you prune, you can keep the tree in optimum health and production.

Also, certain types of trees fruit best on wood of a particular age. So one pruning goal is to have as much of the fruiting-aged wood on the tree as possible. For example, apples, pears, cherries, and plums fruit mostly on 2- to 3-year-old wood, while peaches, nectarines, and figs fruit mostly on one-year-old wood.

Peninsula Horticulture's arborists are experts at the art and practice of tree pruning. 


Fruit and Ornamental Tree Pruning

Mature Tree Pruning

On mature trees, pruning is recommend to remove dead and dying branches to maintain plant health and safety. This pruning type is referred to as cleaning. Research has now documented that thinning, the removal of live branches to reduce density, significantly reduces wind resistance and subsequent storm damage. Thinning should only be done on trees where the crown is "too dense" and a Bartlett Arborist has training and experience to evaluate this attribute. Thinning should be concentrated on the outer portions of the canopy, leaving as many branches on the interior crown as possible. In some instances, the crown or individual branches require reduction in length to improve the form and shape of the plant, to eliminate interference with objects and structures, and to compensate for structural weaknesses. Lower branches may require pruning for similar reasons. This process, known as raising, also can be used to increase the amount of light for turf grass and ground covers beneath the crown of a tree. Peninsula Horticulture's arborists are trained to evaluate the condition of your trees and determine the type(s) of pruning required to balance your goals and those of managing plant health and safety.


Young Tree Pruning

One aspect of pruning that is most frequently overlooked by consumers is structural pruning of young trees. Trees evolved in forests where they tend to grow straight and lose lower branches due to competition for light. When planted in full sun in the landscape, many species tend to develop multiple stems/leaders that are more prone to failure. Lower branches tend to grow at the same rate as the terminal leader that results in weak attachments that also are likely to fail later in the life of the plant. So pruning trees when they are young and growing quickly is critical to ensuring a strong framework for future growth. This pruning focuses on maintaining a single dominant stem unless multiple stem "clumps" are specifically desired. Branches are pruned so their size remains proportional to the stem diameter at their point of attachment. As trees grow, some branches are removed to ensure adequate spacing between permanent scaffold limbs. The shape of the tree is maintained to provide a natural open grown form typical of the species. Our arborists are trained in young tree pruning, specific to tree species and desired outcome.