Thursday, January 19, 2012

Gardening Tip - How to Prune Fruit Stone Fruit Trees

Stone fruit trees (apple, nectarine, peach, apricot, plum) are easiest to prune in the winter since all the leaves have dropped and the branch structure of the tree is easy to see.  There are several great pruning handouts available on the web.  My favorite is the one produced by Alan Erb of Kansas State University.  He discusses in great detail how to approach the pruning both old and young fruit trees.  Here is a link to his handout; .

Basically I sticks to these 4 steps when it comes to pruning my fruit trees (all of which are 3 years old);
1) Remove any branch that exceeds what I can reach on my step stool.  The whole point of the fruit trees is have fruit that I can reach easily.
2) Remove branches that are growing vertically.  The more horizontal the branch, the more fruit it will produce.
3) Remove broken or downward facing branches.  These produce little if any fruit.
4) Remove small, crossing branches (really just twigs) from the middle of the tree.  These produce lots of leaves but little fruit and restrict sun and air flow into the middle of the tree, which an lead to disease in the summer time.

After pruning my fruit trees, I spray them with dormant oil to kill overwintering insects and fungi (which we have a lot of here in San Diego).  Since I am almost out of space, here is a link on using dormant oil;

3 year old peach tree before pruning

Peach tree after pruning

Photos by Doug Kalal

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