You are probably pruning your fruit tree incorrectly!!

During the last ten years orchardists have changed their mind. The old way was dormant pruning to the n-th degree, to shape the tree and remove all water sprouts from the inside. Not any more. With the advance of dwarfing rootstocks, high density plantings, new varieties and the high cost of labor, orchardists are forced to rethink their old pruning techniques. They realize that anytime you prune a tree, you throw away a lot of grown energy. The plant usually responds by growing new non-fruit bearing shoots (which are the water sprouts) and then you have to prune even more. Instead, you should prune as little as possible and train the tree branches into horizontal positions. With other words, bend the branches by means of tying them down or by pushing them outwards with sticks. This process applies specifically if your fruit tree is grafted onto the newer true dwarfing rootstock. An apple tree grafted onto a M-9 rootstock will only grow into an 8’tree; grafted onto M26 it will grow into a 10’ tree. The other advantage of the dwarfing rootstock is that they are precocious. This new term describes the fact that the tree will produce fruit at a very early stage, quite often when the tree is not taller than 4 to 5’.

Another fact to consider when pruning is the light factor. All fruit on the tree only grows on the outside three feet of the tree. There is just not enough light deeper inside the tree to produce good fruit. So when you have a big old tree, which probably is grafted on regular rootstock, you have to open up the inside of the tree. If the tree is already too large, a drastic measure with a chainsaw may be the only solution! Whatever you do, consider the fact that there should be a balance between the amount of fruit and the number and size of the leaves on each tree. It takes about one hundred leaves close to the fruit to support the growth of the fruit. When you have too much fruit on the tree, remove the excess fruit when they are marble size and leave only one fruit for every 6” along the branch.


Article as printed in Herald ad on 3/15/2007


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