On our farm we have many fruit trees, apple, plum, prune, pear, cherry (sweet and sour), persimmon, grape and quince, approximately 25 trees. Last year we moved here too late to prune any of the trees, but in spite of that, most of them produced a good amount of fruit, especially the apples. This year we decided we had to prune, because the trees were getting out of shape, and they just needed some care. Not being the Master Gardener of the family, I don’t know anything about pruning, or even if it is really necessary, but it was something new to learn. Bruce has had quite of bit of experience with pruning fruit trees, as he was in charge of a small orchard in California, associated with the Master Gardeners.
I actually do have some experience with pruning, it’s just not applicable to fruit trees. My method is to get an electric hedge trimmer and chop off all the new growth of any bush that dares to grow in the garden. I also have pruned roses, with a bit more restraint, but not much. Nothing ever died, so I felt ready to step it up and take on the fruit trees.
We started out by helping a fellow Master Gardener with his rather large orchard. It was an MG training class and they let me tag along. The trees looked like they were newly planted, but they were about three years old, so they weren’t in great shape. That was perfect for our group!
So, with that practice under my belt, we set out to the garden and started with the apple trees. The fun part was cutting the branches and trying to figure out which ones needed pruning. The not-fun part was cleaning up the branches and raking up the sodden, dead leaves from under the trees. It took us three days to finish all the trees and I thought, well, either we did a good job and we’ll get fruit this year, or we totally hacked them up and we’ll be buying fruit at the market. Our goal, if I can remember, was to trim the lower branches because some of the branches on some of the trees were almost touching the ground. as in this photo–
We also wanted to establish either a main branch heading upwards or a tiered shape, plus get rid of dead and crossed branches. Take a look at the photos and see for yourselves what the result was:
The first tree, an apple, before and after. You can tell the before, because of all the leaves under the trees.
We did the pruning in January, and had to wait until April for this:
And then, the trees thanked us with these little gems:
I’d say our first pruning was a huge success. All of the fruit trees bloomed, even the pears that didn’t do much last year. Now, all we have to do is wait until the end of summer and into fall to reap the harvest of our hard work.