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Fighting the temptation to prune fruit trees too soon

Dried Fruit.jpg
Shana Williams
Dried Fruit

I enjoy the variety of fruit trees that give me fruit throughout the seasons. Avoiding the desire to prune your trees too soon is difficult when there is no more fruit, or once the leaves have fallen. Their dried fruit and long skinny branches extending into the sky makes me so tempted to prune them back into my desired shape and make them look healthy and pretty again.

This is the time when it's so important for me to fight that temptation. Even if there isn’t any fruit or many leaves, the nutrients are still in all the branches and still readily available to develop new growth.

If I start to prune too soon while we are still having patches of warm weather, the tree will think it should be stimulating new growth rather than preparing to go to sleep for the winter. I definitely don't want that to happen because any new growth will get damaged when the temperature gets colder. It's important to allow the fruit tree to go dormant before pruning it back into the desired shape.

When does a tree enter dormancy? When the nutrients in the various branches return to the trunk and root system of the tree, enabling it to develop a stronger root system as it conserves water, nutrients and protects itself against the colder temperatures.

Remember, there are always some exceptions to the rules when it pertains to safety and the health of the tree. I like these exceptions because I can do some basic pruning and tree clean up by removing the dead branches, twigs and dried up fruit to help prevent disease as well as remove any branches that have extended into my walkways, entrances or exits. When doing this general maintenance, I must tame the overzealous me who wants to prune too much.

When cared for properly, my fruit trees give me a bounty of fruit. Presently, I am looking forward to enjoying the many persimmons over the colder months.

Pruned Fig.jpg
Shana Williams
Pruned Fig Tree

Here are some quick tips and helpful resources when pruning your fruit trees.

➢ When is the best time to prune my fruit trees? Late Winter or Early Spring

➢ Clean your tools before moving to the next tree to prevent transferring any pest or disease. Sharpen tools for clean cuts. Cut close to the trunk or branch junction but don’t make a flush cut, leave a small stub.

➢ Which branches should I remove? Your desired size and shape play a key role, however, begin with removing dead branches, branches touching or weighing another branch down, long shoots, diseased branches, and low hanging limbs to prevent disease.

Happy Gardening,

Shana Williams

Additional Resources:

What causes a tree to enter and exit dormancy? by the Penn State Extension Office

Tree Care by the Virginia Department of Forestry

Pruning Trees and Shrubs – by the University of Minnesota Extension