Spring Fruit Tree Pruning

Early spring is the right time to prune most trees, and this year is my first try.  I was a little nervous, but I got it done and I’m pretty sure I didn’t kill my trees.  We planted some fruit trees a couple springs ago, but I felt they needed to establish their roots before I pruned them.  I’m not sure if this is the right way of thinking, but that’s what I did and my trees are still alive.  I’ve done a little research on fruit tree pruning, so I have a general idea of how to do some pruning.  There are a lot of opinions out there on how to do it, so educate yourself and decide what you think is best.  Here are a few tips I found helpful when deciding what to cut:

Low Bottom Branches — You can cut off branches that are lower than 18-24 inches, which will make the tree put more energy into the rest of the branches.  It will also help prevent heavy snow from pulling the bottom branches off and tearing them, which happened to some of my trees this year.

Where to trim — Make your cuts just above buds without damaging the last bud.

Inward Growing Branches — Branches that are growing inward toward the center of the tree, if left alone, will eventually rub against other branches and/or clutter the inner part of the tree making it more challenging to get in there to harvest the fruit.

Damaged or Dead Branches — Remove any branches that are damaged or dead.  Look for heavy scarring, tears, bug damage, etc.

Tall Central Leader — The central leader is the center most branch that reaches vertically above and taller than all the other branches.  This branch should remain the “dominant” center branch so the tree trunk will be straight and sturdy.  Trim surrounding branches to keep them shorter than the central leader.

Crotch Angles — The wider the angle between the bases of the branches and trunk, the better.  If the angle is too closed, either place a spacer or remove one of the branches.

Bud Direction — When trimming the branches, pay attention to the placement of the branches around the tree.  If there is a bare side, find a branch close to that gap and prune it close to a bud that is pointing in the direction of the bare area.  The hope is that that bud will grow a branch that reaches in the direction of the gap and fills that space.

I admit I’m very new to tree pruning, and certainly not an expert, so if you have tips and suggestions please leave them in the comments below or send us an email.  Growing fruit trees is exciting and so is learning from each other.  What kinds of trees are you growing?  Have you grown any nut trees, and is their care much different than fruit trees?

Special thanks to Chuck Marsh at the YouTube channel “usefulplants” for posting this great video about apple tree pruning:

Also special thanks to USUExtension for their helpful video about pruning peach trees: