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How to Prune Fruit Trees

Pruning means removing branches from a tree to correct or maintain the tree's structure. Pruning the branches of fruit trees helps stimulate growth and controls the size and shape of the tree, resulting in better quality fruit. Another goal of pruning is to remove dead, broken and diseased limbs. Pruning branches also opens up the tree canopy, thereby exposing it to more sunlight. Pruning is most often done in the late winter or early spring, and is commonly referred to as dormant pruning. If you've never pruned before, don't worry, it's not difficult. Here's a list of things you need to know before you start pruning.

  1. Use sharp saws or shears so that you make clean cuts. Use pruning shears on young trees and limbs with a diameter of less than a ½ inch (1.27 centimeters). Use a pruning saw for more mature fruit trees.
  2. Remove any dead wood or branches. Cut off any branches that cross or rub against another branch. This opens up the middle of the tree so that sunlight can reach all the fruits.
  3. Cut above a bud or close to a joint in the branch. Never cut below a joint, leaving a stub. All cuts should be made at about a 30 degree angle.
  4. Prune branches just above a pair of opposing shoots (i.e. shoots that come out of the stem branch from the same point). If they grow in a staggered fashion, prune just above the stronger branch.
  5. Prune more vertical branches than horizontal branches.
  6. Remove all shoots from around the bottom of the tree.
  7. Remove all debris and branches from around the tree, as these can harbor disease and pests.[sources: BBC, Cesonoma]