Pruning Fruit Trees
Even though it’s not December 21 yet……winter is upon us! In our area, northern Illinois, our apple trees are in full dormancy and it’s time to begin planning our pruning for the coming pruning season. You may not have 16,000+ trees like we do here at Royal Oak Farm Orchard, but you still need to plan your pruning.
When to Prune
For the home grower that has 2 or more fruit trees, the better time to prune in our region is probably mid to late March when the daytime temperatures are a bit more bearable. The earlier in winter you begin to prune, the more likely you may open the tree up for freezing in severe temperatures if those temperatures arrive too early in the winter as they have this year. So the best time to prune is late winter of early spring, before the buds open up for the new growing season.
If you have just planted your tree(s) this past growing season, you may not even need to prune your trees at all through this first year. You can then begin training your tree(s) this next May and June and do any minimal pruning at that time.
How to Prune
It is very important to know the difference between training your new apple trees and pruning them. Training begins when the tree is planted and continues throughout the life of the tree.
Training is primarily used for proper positioning of the main scaffolds of the tree. A properly trained tree can save many hours of very difficult corrective pruning later!
Pruning, on the other hand, is used to thin the branches of your tree to allow more light into the tree canopy (the area covered by vegetative growth). When all the leaves of a tree are exposed to more light, the tree produces higher quality fruit.
For more on training and pruning your young fruit trees, download T. R. Roper’s article "Training and Pruning Apple Trees" .
Rather than post the various yearly stages of pruning trees, let me refer you to an excellent article on Establishing a central leader apple tree or open center peach tree that will cover the first four years of pruning a young tree, whether it be apple trees or stone fruit such as peaches.
I hope you find these articles useful! As always, if you have any questions contact me anytime via comments or through our web site!