Why should I prune my trees?
Pruning is critical to the quality and size of harvest you will have. Pruning opens up the canopy allowing more light to travel through. This improves the quality of the fruit. The time of blossoming, harvest, and pruning differs among fruit varieties.
Aside from the fruit benefits, pruning can improve safety by making sure the tree is not touching any buildings or power lines.
When should I prune my trees?
Do some research to determine what types of trees you have. The type of tree that you have will affect how and when it needs to be pruned.
Generally, you should prune your fruit trees in late winter or early spring when the leaves have fallen off and they are dormant. Pruning in the spring or summer removes leaves that produce energy and nutrients that are needed to produce fruit. This slows down fruit ripening.
Pruning in late winter is best for apple and pear trees.
How do I prune my trees?
The most common fruit trees in the Alberni Valley are apples, pears, plums, and cherries. These trees required thinning. Thinning is the removal of unwanted branches down to where they connect to another branch or the trunk.
Young trees should be pruned heavily in the first few years to promote rapid tree growth. Except for plums, which should be pruned lightly for the first 5 years. Older trees require heavy pruning infrequently. Often only when the tree has become too large, grown over power lines, or grown to close to a building. Trees older than 5 years mostly need light pruning to open up the canopy so more light can get through, promote growth, or to reduce the amount of fruit produced.
Vertical branches tend to mostly have leaves with little to no fruit. Cutting vertical branches encourages tree development and allows more sunlight in. Horizontal branches are the fruit bearing branches. Cutting horizontal branches helps renew fruiting wood and to reduce the amount of fruit produced.
Remove branches that are not necessary. These include branches that over lap or are competing with each other for sunlight, downward hanging branches, and branches growing vertically up in the middle of the tree.
Cutting branches promotes new growth at the spot where the branch was cut. Removing branches at the top of the tree will allow the most sunlight to shine through. Branches that have little to no exposure to sunlight will produce little to no fruit.
Make sure your cuts are clean and not too close to the bud. The angle of the cut should be downwards away from the bud, not towards the bud.
Watersprouts are shoots that grow from the trees trunk or branches, and appear out of character. See the image below for an example. They often grow vertical and fast. You may see them grow in clusters. They compete with developing fruit by using up valuable water and nutrients from the tree. It is important to remove these each year.
Suckers grow from the base of the trunk or roots and should be removed. Like watersprouts tree suckers use up tree nutrients that should be used for tree growth. See image below. Suckers can grow on horizontal branches at the top of the tree and should be removed.
Summer pruning decreases growth and should be limited. Trees with low strength and health should not be pruned in the summer.
Make sure you do not:
- Remove parts of the trunk
- This makes the tree more susceptible to insects, bacteria, temperature variations and sun rays
- Remove too much tree bark
- Bark protects the tree from temperature variations, sun rays, insects and bacteria
For more detailed information please see our resources below.
EAP – Training and Pruning Apple Trees: http://eap.mcgill.ca/CPTFP_7.htm
Scotty Tree and Arborist – How to prune deciduous trees:
Space for Life Montreal – Pruning fruit trees: http://espacepourlavie.ca/en/pruning-fruit-trees
Ten Basics Of When And How To Prune Fruit Trees: http://homeorchard.ucdavis.edu/pruningfruit.pdf
Training and Pruning your Home Orchard: https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/pnw400/html
What are Watersprouts: https://www.thespruce.com/what-are-watersprouts-3269561
What are Suckers: https://www.thespruce.com/what-are-suckers-3269560