Now is the time to prune deciduous fruit trees.
The trees are dormant and the leaves have fallen so it’s easier to see which branches to remove.
Pruning serves many purposes. It controls the size of the tree and makes fruit easier to reach. It strengthens the tree’s branches and helps manage the amount of fruit produced. Pruning allows sunlight to reach trees’ inner branches. It also removes dead, broken and crossed branches.
Prune new trees back at the time of planting. Cut them to short sticks 24 to 30 inches high. Cut remaining side shoots to one bud. This encourages low branching and equalizes the top with the root system.
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Young trees should be pruned heavily the first three years, encouraging rapid growth without bearing fruit.
When pruning mature trees, remove suckers, water sprouts and most competing branches growing straight up through the tree. Take off downward hanging branches that will eventually lose their vigor and won’t produce much fruit.
The amount to prune mature trees each year depends on the variety of the tree. Pruning should remove 50 percent of last year’s growth for peaches and nectarines. Figs, apples, pears and plums are pruned to remove 20 percent of the previous year’s growth.
Use pruning shears to cut small branches and shoots. Use a sharp pruning saw for branches too large to be cut by shears. Make cuts at a 45 degree angle across the branch to prevent water from ponding on the cut.
Apricots are only pruned during the summer. Cherries are summer pruned during the first five years.
For more information on pruning, visit: homeorchard.ucanr.edu/The_Big_Picture/Pruning
The Master Gardeners will be conducting a two-hour pruning workshop on Saturday, January 21 from 10 am to 12 pm. Please visit our website to register: http://ucanr.edu/sites/mgslo/.
The first half will provide information about how to successfully grow and maintain deciduous fruit trees. Topics will include chill hours, fertilization, irrigation, disease prevention and pest management. The second half will be a pruning demonstration on trees in the Demonstration Garden.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a UCCE Master Gardener.
Got a gardening question?
In San Luis Obispo call 781-5939, Arroyo Grande, 473-7190 and Templeton, 434-4105. Visit us at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo/ or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Instagram at slo_mgs and like us on Facebook. Informative garden workshops are held the third Saturday of every month, 10 a.m. to noon at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. Garden docents are available after the workshop until 1 p.m. To request a tour of the garden, call 781-5939.