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Fruit Tree Pruning Basics and How to Prune Fruit Trees

Simply Trees is available to teach one-on-one, on-site fruit tree pruning workshops in Salt Lake City, Utah and surrounding areas! Call 801-987-0183 to schedule yours today! 

The following is an outline of fruit tree pruning basics and what will be discussed during your workshop. 

Tools You Will Need to Prune Your Fruit Trees

Pruning Saw
Pole Pruner

Terminology You Will Need to Prune Your Fruit Trees

Leader - The dominant stem or trunk of a tree.
Canopy - The area of the tree in which branches are present.
Drip Line - The imaginary line that exists on the ground at the farthest tips of the canopy.
Co-dominant Leader - Where a tree has two or more competing stems or trunks.
Scaffold Branches - Horizontal branches that extend from the trunk or leader of a tree.
Suckers - Small branches that grow from the base or roots of a tree.
Water Sprout - Fast growing branches that grow vertical from a trees scaffold branches. These branches do not produce fruit.
Collar - The folded bark tissue that appears on a main stem or branch around a secondary branch.
Ridge - Where the bark tissue from one branch or stem meets the bark tissue from another.
Node - The part of a branch where a bud or fork is located.
Internode -  The space between nodes.
Spur - A short branch with little or no space between nodes
Espalier - A tree or shrub that has been pruned flat usually against a wall or fence.

Eight Easy Steps to Pruning Your Fruit Trees

Before making any cuts to your tree, it is important to decide what shape you would like your tree to take. On older trees this decision has already been made, or your tree has grown naturally in such a way that you will need to prune your tree to fit its current form. 

Step 1: Remove any suckers that are growing up near the base of the tree.
Step 2a: Remove the lower two branches if the canopy of the tree is growing too close to the ground. If the lowest branches are at the desired height, skip step 2 and proceed to step 3.
Step 2b: Remove the leader of your tree to open the center. Once this is completed it will never need to be done again. If the leader has been removed, skip step 2 and proceed to step 3.
Step 3: Remove all of the water sprouts from your tree.
Step 5: Remove one of all of the branches that are crossing, touching, or will be touching after the upcoming growing season.
Step 6: Remove larger co-dominant leaders and remove any branch that is growing above the desired tree height.
Step 8: Continue thinning tree to allow for good air flow and light penetration through the canopy of the tree. Also, take this time to shape your tree to create balance or symmetry.

Professional Fruit Tree Pruning Tips

Disinfect all tools before you start pruning and before moving to another tree. Make sure tools are sharp and are working properly to ensure clean cuts. Use the right tool for the size of the branch you are cutting.

Removing suckers from the base of trees often stimulates more suckers growth when the tree comes out of dormancy. Pulling suckers during the growing season before they harden off and become woody will suppress sucker growth and simplify pruning in the future.

After you have finished step 3, pick a major branch and focus your pruning (steps 4 - 8) on that branch. Start from the trunk and work your way out to the tips. Once completed, move to the next major branch.

When cutting a branch, make sure that you cut it back to a node (fork or bud). If you cut a branch at a fork, make sure you cut it perpendicular to the direction of the branch so the wound is as small as possible. When you cut a branch back to a bud, cut it at a slight angle so the bud is at a point on the end of the branch. You can control the direction of growth by cutting a branch back to a bud that is facing the direction you want to tree to grow.

When cutting branches, make sure the collar and ridge stay intact. This will allow the tree to heal properly.

Make sure you leave spurs intact. Most of the blossoms and fruit occur on spurs.

Remember, pruning your trees should be fun and the best way to learn is practice. If you feel like you didn't get the results that you wanted, don't stress, you will be able to try again next year. If you still feel like your pruning efforts are not improving your fruit tree's health and productivity, feel free to give us a call at 801-987-0183 to schedule an on-site one-on-one fruit tree pruning workshop or allow us to give your fruit trees a professional pruning.