Home garden design > Fruit growing > Pruning fruit trees

Pruning fruit trees

Pruning is one of the most neglected practices of good orchard management. Neglect of the trees in this respect does not usually show its injurious effects as readily as lack of spraying or fertilization, and for that reason is frequently considered of minor importance. No one at the present time argues that rational pruning is detrimental to the tree, but it is a fact that in a very large majority of the orchards no rational system of pruning is followed. The little that is done is usually haphazard, and spasmodic, and not infrequently more injurious than beneficial.

Neglected pruning especially of young trees can never be corrected so as to give as good a tree as though the work had been done at the right time. The first pruning is the most important factor in the history of the plant, but those immediately following it are of only slightly less importance. If the tree be properly pruned during these years, the matter of pruning after it comes into bearing is a great deal less troublesome problem than if the work has been only half executed.

Pruning during the early stages of a tree's development has for its primary object, the formation of an ideal fruit bearing area. Making up this ideal are such factors as proper branching, keeping the head open, encouraging the production of fruit spurs, correcting defects of growth, and keepingg the head down so that spraying an harvesting will be facilitated. To secure this ideal or even approach it, pruning must be done at least once each year, and when done not be a matter of merely groin through the orchard and clipping out a branch here or there. Every tree must be carefully studied as to its individual characteristics and then pruned accordingly.

Pruning should be an annual operation. Many growers prune at intervals of three or four years, but this is a very undesirable method. In the first place, it will take less time to prune properly when done at least once every season than to let the growth accumulate for three or more years, and the results will be much more satisfactory. A small branch or twig, is much more quickly removed than when it has grown for a considerable time; it has not made so large demands upon the tree for its food supply, and this caused no evil effects by crowding other branches which it is desirable to leave for permanent use.

When done at long intervals, pruning has a tendency to disturb the equilibrium of the tree, and to retard or diminish fruit production. It is evident that if no pruning is done on a tree for a period of years, that the amount of wood to te removed at one time will be much greater than if annual pruning is practiced. Heavy top pruning tends to wood production. As a tree cannot turn its activities strongly in two directions at the same time, it follows that fruit production will be reduced until the tree has regained its equilibrium. This balance is quite difficult to obtain for the vigorous vegetative growth induced by the heavy pruning runs quite largely to the production of water sprouts or suckers which are worthless; as a rule, and should be removed. These difficulties can be almost entirely overcome by practicing annual pruning.