If you live on San Juan Island, Orcas Island or Lopez Island, it’s time to prune your fruit trees again.
If you’ve ever planted a fruit tree and then all but forgotten about it afterward, you know that scenario can turn into quite a disaster. In order for your trees to thrive, you must take proper care of them, which means they must be pruned on a regular basis.
Pruning not only makes your trees more attractive but it also increases their fruit production, prevents diseases and keeps branches from breaking so easily in bad weather. Pruning your tree every year also helps keep it from becoming too full, which can reduce the light needed to ripen fruit.
So, when do you prune? While summer pruning is fine (and reduces growth rate), it’s easiest and best for the tree to do it in late fall or winter when there are no leaves on it (which also makes it much easier to see what you’re doing). Be careful too that you don’t overdo it as that can make a tree shift into high gear as it tries to reestablish itself.
As for tools, you’ll need a good pair of pruning shears, a pruning saw and loppers, all of which need to be sharp and clean, which reduces the chance of disease to the tree. There are three basic types of cuts – pinching (removing the tip of a young plant); heading (removing part of a shoot or branch); and thinning (removing an entire shoot or section of branch).
Before you start to work, take a good look at your tree, then prune dead or diseased branches and get rid of any little sprouts you might see around the bottom of the tree trunk.
Pruning also involves thinning out your tree. Get rid of errant branches, those that are growing downward, across each other or toward the middle of the tree. If there are places with several branches vying for the same territory, thin out all but the healthiest looking branch that boasts the best angle.
Prune back the end of branches so instead of looking scraggly and thin, they’re thicker and shorter. Once the tree is bearing fruit, this will help the branches from breaking.
Taking care of your fruit trees will not only increase their productivity but it will also make for a much more attractive setting around your home and property.