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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Pruning Fruit Trees (This Week's Hand Out)

Fruiting Characteristics of Common Fruit Trees

Type of Tree
Location of Fruiting Buds

Age of bearing

Amount of Pruning
Long Branches Spurs or Short Branches
Laterally Terminally Laterally Terminally
Major 8- 10 yrs. Moderate
Apricot Minor
3 years Heavy
Fig Major
1 yr & new shoots Various
Peach/Nectarine Major
1-2 yrs Heavy
Pear, Asian Minor Very minor
Major 6-8 yrs Moderate to heavy
Pear, European Minor Minor
Major 8-10 yrs Moderate
Persimmon Major Major Minor Minor New shoots at the tip of 1 yr branches Light (thinning)
Plum, European Minor
6-8 yrs Moderate
Plum, Japanese Minor
6-8 yrs Heavy
Pomegranate Minor
Short new shoots Moderate
Quince Major Minor

New shoots Light (thinning)

Tools For Pruning

      hand held pruners – I prefer Felco
      pole saw
     pruning knife (rarely used)

Pruning and Pruning Cuts

First, prune off any damaged or broken branches. Take them back as far as you can.

Secondly, prune off what we call 'crossing branches.' These are branches that come through the center of the tree, crossing from one side to the opposite, or are branches that are parallel and close enough to be touching other branches. They can abrade the branches they touch when moved by wind and that wound can be an entrance point for insects or other pests. These must come out; take them back as far as you can.

Thirdly, do some pruning to shape the tree. Part of 'shaping' for fruit trees is to limit their height. I know it will somewhat lessen your fruit crop, but any apple tree humming along at full production, will inundate you with way too many apples. A little off the top so you can easily harvest from the tree without fancy footwork or ludicrous convolutions will not be missed – the ease with which it can be picked will gladden your heart. And save your back.

Always use clean pruners – if you have pruned a tree that even might have a disease, or if you have pruned a tree from a different location, clean your pruners with Listerine or some disinfectant. I was taught to use a bleach solution, but unless you are a masochist, I'd suggest avoiding that. It ruins your skin, your clothes and your tools – although it does disinfect. Still, there are kinder ways to do this.

I prefer to use my hand held pruners for most cuts.  The saw is my next favorite tool with loppers being third.  Their cuts are less than clean and a clean cut heals faster for the tree.  The pole cutters and saws are the least favorite of all because of the lack of control you have over the cuts.  I use a chain saw for tree removal – or branch removal on some branches that have got to come out – I rarely prune large branches on trees I care for because I take them out when they are still small enough to be pruned out by my hand-held pruners.  


Always try to cut back to an area that will heal. This isn't always possible, but to the degree you can, cut back to an area called the bark branch ridge. In this graphic, on the left side, the red line shows where the pruner will make it's cut – just below the red pruner handle, you can see a branch cut correctly. The bark branch ridge contains cells that will enable the plant to heal the wound. On the right of the graphic, you can see the three cuts needed to remove a large branch without tearing into the tree causing unnecessary harm.


  1. Great tips, keep us updated! Your doing us all a huge favor, thank you

    -Samudaworth Tree Service
    Tree Removal Brooklyn

  2. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment.

    Garden Designer Norfolk & Timber Decking Suffolk


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