Pruning fruit trees and berry plants

Pruning Fruit Trees

Fruit trees benefit from annual pruning during the dormant season. Pruning stimulates new growth and the development of younger and more productive or healthy wood. Work with the long term structure of the tree in mind. Young trees need minimal pruning until they begin to bear. On older trees this may mean removing difficult to pick wood in the top of the tree and cycling out older wood. Remove any dead or diseased wood. Remove any misplaced branches, in the way of paths, vehicles, etc. Prune to allow sun and air into the tree. Sun is important for the development of healthy wood, and for the ripening of fruit. Good air flow will reduce both insect and fungal pests. Heavy pruning during the dormant season is not likely to kill a tree; however, the more wood removed the greater the volume of new growth as the tree attempts to create a canopy to balance its root system. Over vigorous suckers are slow to bear; be sure to leave enough fruit buds throughout the tree (fruit buds are typically fatter buds that stick out from the sides of the branch), as fruiting is the best way to check excessive growth.

Pruning Shrubs

Young shrubs usually need little to no pruning besides the removal of the occasional dead or broken branch. Mature shrubs benefit from renewal pruning. Typically the most productive flowering and fruiting wood is only a few years old, removing the oldest and typically least vigorous stems at their base will encourage new growth and ensure that enough light is reaching them to develop into productive wood. Prune during winter or early spring when plants are dormant.

Elderberry: Cut back the oldest stems to the ground every year or cut the entire plant to the ground every few years to maintain a vigorous and healthy plant. Two year old wood is usually the most productive.

Blueberry: Remove any dead or damaged wood annually, and occasionally (every 2-4 years) remove the oldest and largest stems. Older wood becomes less productive over time and should be replaced with new growth.

Currants: Remove anything more than three or four years old, the most productive wood is two or three years old. Prune to keep plants upright for ease of management.

How to Make Your Cuts:

Trees do not heal, they section off any damaged tissue and continue to grow around it. When you make your cut, go as close as you can to the branch collar (the swelling often at the base of a branch as it enters the tree) but do not cut into it or into the trunk of the tree (cuts should be not quite flush).

Enjoy yourself out there! Pruning is a good reason to get outside in the winter. Short of a teacher, the experience that comes with practice and observation is the best way to learn.