It is important to prune fruit trees each year to encourage a robust fruit crop. Winter in northern Utah is a good time for pruning because the leaves have dropped, granting clear access to the entire tree structure and allowing you to see any damage or disease. Some arborists prefer to prune closer to spring; however once the temperatures begin to rise and trees come to life, pruning may cause damage. Here are some practical tips for winter fruit-tree care.
Why Prune Fruit Trees?
Most fruit trees require aggressive annual pruning to encourage fruit production. The growth of new wood is necessary for fruit to develop, and new wood will only grow when old wood is removed. Fruit grows on year-old wood, so the branches you cut this year will produce next year, whereas the branches you cut last year will bear this year’s crop. It is important to note that this approach is appropriate only for trees like peach, plum and apple. Citrus trees require an alternative approach.
How to Prune Trees in Utah
Most arborists suggest an open-center approach to pruning. Imagine your tree as a wide, shallow bowl (think satellite dish). This provides the appropriate amount of sunlight but still allows the tree to shade itself, which is also necessary for healthy fruit development. Strive for four main branches coming off the trunk, one in each direction, from which smaller branches will grow. Prune smaller branches so that all are approximately six inches apart, leaving ample room for fruit growth. Preserve those branches that grow at a 45-to-90-degree angle from the trunk or main branch and prune those that do not. Eliminate all branches that cross over one another.
A Word about Fallen Leaves
Experts have begun to debate the merits of raking and removing dead leaves. The National Wildlife Fund recently launched a campaign called “Leave the Leaves for Wildlife.” The theory is that a thick layer of downed leaves can provide a natural winter habitat for wildlife and even encourage butterfly pupae to hibernate there. Lawn-care experts discourage this practice, however, because the accumulated moisture can encourage rot and mold to grow, potentially destroying your turf grass. A possible compromise is to rake leaves into dormant planting beds or to the perimeter of the yard. This will preserve the wildlife habitat while keeping your lawn healthy and ready for spring growth. Two added bonuses to this approach: no additional material in the landfill, and the leaves will break down to create a natural (and free) garden mulch.
Pruning fruit trees can be confusing and potentially damaging to the tree if not done correctly. In addition, homeowners can easily be injured while climbing ladders or using sharp pruning blades. In Provo and the surrounding areas, All Green Pest Control and Lawn Care understands the proper techniques for pruning and caring for your all your trees, all year long.