Although many gardeners put off pruning and shaping of their fruit trees this can effect the overall health of your tree and the fruit that you hope to harvest.
Training of your fruit trees should start the day that they are transplanted and continue until the point that they need to be replaced many years down the road. If you do not train your trees early on you may find that you will need to take dramatic steps to save and improve its health. This will mean many years lost in fruit production and more then likely will mean that your trees never reach their full potential.
In addition to improving the resulting crop that you may harvest if you prune your trees from the start they will live longer then trees that are left to grow without management.
Why should you prune your fruit trees?
The primary reason for training and pruning your trees is to produce a support system for the fruit.
Untrained trees will normally have branches that are upright which can result in breakage under heavy load of fruit or snow in the winter.
Another reason to continuously train and prune your trees is to remove dead and diseased branches or those branches that may be healthy but impose a risk on other branches.
Pruning regularly will also open up the canopy and maximize light which will increase fruit production. Bright light is important for healthy growth of your tree and fruit. Most trees will not have enough light to produce healthy growth once a thickness of about 2o inches is made into the canopy.
When pruning you should remember that some fruit trees produce buds in the summer prior to fruit production for this reason you should educate yourself about your trees and manage them in a way that to reduce harm to your crops.
Remember it does not matter if you are running a professional orchard, a small tree crop for your own harvest or simply a decorative garden where fruit is a secondary benefit .. Pruning and training of your trees will mean that they are not only attractive but also healthy and last you many years.
You would not want to plant a tree and watch it grow for 10 years only to find that your lack of care resulted in a large break effecting many branches to which the need to cut down the tree is the only option.
When should you prune your Trees?
Failure to prune your trees within the first year will result in drastic pruning needs to restore the shape of the tree. If you purchase larger trees you should ask how they have been pruned and while you are at it ask how you should continue to care for your specific tree.
As we said the development of fruit buds can occur in summer previous to the harvest and for this reason each type of tree must be given its own regiment for training and pruning.
Dormant pruning is recommended by most arborists. When you prune your trees in the off season there is no growth occurring and this should result in invigorating the tree once growth starts in the spring.
If you need to manage your trees at any other time of the year you should be careful not to disturb its growth and limit your pruning to dangerous situations, disease or bug infestations.
How should you make pruning cuts to your trees?
It is important that whenever you cut your tree for reasons of pruning that the cut be clean.
If you need to use a chainsaw to remove many branches quickly you should normally come back with a pruning saw that you operate by hand to clean up the cuts.
A tight cut means the wood of the tree can protect it’s self from disease and bugs.
You want to develop a central trunk that runs vertically and then out branches.
Developing the central trunk should be started at planting and continued through out the tree’s life.
Remember to always remove any vigorous upright shoots.
How should you train the growth of your trees?
There are many methods that can be used while the tree is still young to force the shape of the central trunk.
Normally you will find steel poles that are attached to the trunk work well because they do not flex like plastic pipe.
However if you do decide to manage your trunk and branches with supports you must take care that the fastening system that you use does not cause harm to the bark of the tree. Damage can happen if you allow the tree to grow too long without changing the fasteners or it can be caused through friction during wind.
Separating the branches of your trees with wood when they are young may provide a larger canopy.
Training normally occurs in the summer months while pruning is in the off season of fall and early winter.