Prune Your Fruit Trees in February
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February is the time to prune fruit trees such as apple, pear, plum, cherry, peach & nectarine. Don’t wait.
According to the NC State Small Orchards publication, neglecting pruning chores can cost orchardists money.
“Many fruit-growing enthusiasts neglect the annual training and pruning of fruit trees. Without training and pruning, however, fruit trees will not develop proper shape and form. Properly trained and pruned trees will yield high-quality fruit much sooner and live significantly longer.”
The publication continues, ” There are two primary training systems for fruit trees:
- Central leader training is primarily used for apples, pears, and pecans but can also be used for cherry and plum trees. A single, main upright trunk characterizes trees with central leaders. A Christmas tree shape is a good example of a central leader training system. Figure 9 shows (1) First year pruning, removing leader 30–34 inches above ground; (2) Dormant pruning, remove leader 24–30 inches above first set of branches; (3) First summer after planting, determine proper leader (a) and prune off other wood around the leader (b and c); (4) Central leader system with 18–24 inches between branches; (5) Top view of central leader system showing ideal branch spacing around the tree.
- The second type of training (used in peaches, nectarines, and plums) is called open center or vase training (Figure 10). In this training system, the central leader is removed, leaving three to five limbs extending outward and upward at approximately a 45 to 60 degree angle from the main trunk. Open center training allows for optimal light penetration.
For more detailed information on tree training and pruning please refer to the publication entitled Training and Pruning Fruit Trees.”
Sometimes trees are neglected and get overgrown. Over grown trees with too many limbs and leaves will not produce quality apples. Sometimes is become necessary to ‘renovate’ apple trees. This mean cutting the trees way back.
Don’t be afraid to cut the tree severely. It will feel wrong but the plant will not be negatively affected. The pruning will actually invigorate the tree. Here are some before and after pictures of some heavy winter renovation pruning in apples. The following are some before and after images of renovation pruning on apple trees in winter.
Some light summer pruning can be done as well.