Pruning fruit trees in winter will help promote healthy growth so you have a manageable tree, and a plentiful amount of fruit to enjoy in the summer. If left un-kept, it will still produce fruit but it can become tall, unmanageable and leave you without the fruit you desire.
Your goal in pruning your fruit tree is to promote growth by removing unnecessary parts of the tree. It is important to understand where to prune so you don’t remove the branches that will bear fruit. Generally you can identify the branches that will grow fruit by looking for limbs with leaves or flower buds – these areas represent where the fruit will grow.
The end of a limb is called a terminal. This area doesn’t bear fruit and produces a chemical that can hinder the growth of the buds lying down the side of the same limb. Remove the terminal bud to encourage the fruit of the limb to grow.
Lateral limbs grow off major branches. Do not prune these excessively as they develop fruit for the next season. Prune if you notice these limbs crossing over each other. It can hinder your tree’s growth because the branches are competing with each other rather than having a nice open area to grow.
There are multiple shapes to form your fruit tree, these include a vase shape, central leader and modified central leader. An arborist can give you an accurate assessment of the best shape for your tree; however a common shape for fruit trees is a vase. This shape promotes strength and durability for carrying fruit; however a central leader may be a better option for heavier fruit.
Pruning young fruit trees is valuable because it will establish the tree’s form in the coming years. In these early years you should let the tree bear many leafy areas so that it results in strong and thick branches when it’s older. Pruning alone will not guarantee good growth and health, remember to fertilise, check for pests and diseases, and have good irrigation.
Trees that generally require annual pruning include stone fruit trees (peach, apricot, and plum), apples and pears. Citrus trees, figs and cherries require less pruning once its form is established but you should still monitor for any pests and disease, general health and clear structure.
Pruning is ideal in winter but you can also prune as soon as all your fruit has been harvested for the season. If you notice any dead or diseased parts of the tree, you should prune immediately or contact your arborist.