Fruit tree pruning

Pruning fruit trees is a technique that is employed by gardeners to control growth, remove dead or diseased wood or stimulate the formation of flowers and fruit buds. The most economical pruning is done early in the season, when buds begin to break, and one can pinch off the soft tissue with one's fingers (hence the expression "nipped in the bud"). Many home fruit growers make the mistake of planting a tree, then neglecting it until it begins to bear. But careful attention to pruning and training young trees will ultimately determine their productivity and longevity. Good pruning and training will also prevent later injury from weak crotches that break under snow or fruit load.

Overview

To obtain a better understanding of how to prune plants properly, it is useful to have some underlying knowledge of how pruning works, and how it affects the way in which plants grow.

Plants form new tissue in an area called the meristem, located near the tips of roots and shoots, where active cell division takes place. Meristem growth is aimed at ensuring that leaves are quickly elevated into sunlight, and that roots are able to penetrate deeply into the soil. Once adequate height and length is achieved by the stems and roots, they will begin to thicken to give support to the plant. On the shoots, these growing tips of the plant are known as apical buds. The apical meristem (or tip) produces the growth hormone auxin, which not only promotes cell division, but also diffuses downwards and inhibits the development of lateral bud growth which would otherwise compete with the apical tip for light and nutrients. Removing the apical tip and its suppressive hormone allows the lower dormant lateral buds to develop, and the buds between the leaf stalk and stem produce new shoots which compete to become the lead growth.

Manipulating this natural response to damage (known as the principle of apical dominance) by processes such as pruning (as well as coppicing and pollarding) allows the horticulturist to determine the shape, size and productivity of many fruiting trees and bushes. The main aim when pruning fruit trees is usually to obtain a decent crop of fruit rather than a tree with an abundance of lush yet unproductive foliage. Unpruned trees tend to produce large crops of small, worthless fruit often damaged by pests and diseases, and much of the crop is out of reach at the top of the tree. Branches can become broken by the weight of the crop, and the cropping may become biennial (that is, only bearing fruit every other year). Overpruned trees on the other hand tend to produce light crops of large, flavourless fruit that does not store well. Pruning is therefore carried out to achieve a balance between shoot growth and fruit production.

Formative pruning of bush trees

Formative pruning of apple ("Malus pumila") and pear ("Pyrus communis") trees (the pome fruits; the stone fruits such as cherries, plums, gages, etc., have different requirements and should not be pruned during the dormant months) should be carried out during the dormant winter months between November and March (or June and September in the southern hemisphere) and during the early years of the tree's life to develop a strong framework capable of bearing the weight of the crops that will be borne in later years. This involves hard pruning, although in later years pruning will be lighter and carried out to encourage fruiting.

Maiden tree

A maiden whip (that is, a one year old tree with no side shoots) should be pruned to a bud with two buds below it at about 80 cm from the ground immediately after planting to produce primary branches during the first growing season. A feathered maiden (that is, a one year old tree with several side branches) should have its main stem pruned back to three or four strong shoots at 80 cm from the ground. Side shoots should be shortened by two thirds of their length to an upward or outward facing bud. Lower shoots should be removed flush with the stem.

Two year

Remove any lower shoots and prune between three and five of the best placed shoots by half to an upwards or outwards facing bud to form what will become the tree's main structural branches. Remove any inwards facing shoots.

Three year

Prune the leading shoots of branches selected to extend the framework by half to a bud facing in the desired direction. Select four good laterals to fill the framework and shorten these by a half. Prune any remaining laterals to four buds to form fruiting spurs.

Four year

The tree will have begun to fruit and only limited formative pruning is now required. Shorten leaders by one third and prune laterals not required to extend the framework to four buds.

Five year and onwards

The tree is considered to be established and should be annually pruned as described in

Pruning the cropping tree

Before pruning it is important to distinguish between spur bearing and tip bearing varieties. The former, which is the most common type, bear most of their fruit on older wood, and include apples such as "Cox's Orange Pippin", "James Grieve" and "Sunset", and pears such as "Conference", "Doyenne du Commice" and "Williams Bon Chretien". Tip bearers on the other hand produce most of their fruit buds at the tips of slender shoots grown the previous summer, and include the apples "Worcester Pearmain" and "Irish Peach", and the pears such as "Jargonelle" and "Josephine de Malines". There are basically three types of pruning that are applied once the main shape of the tree has been established. These are:

*Spur pruning:Spur bearing varieties form spurs naturally, but spur growth can also be induced.
*Renewal pruning: This also depends on the tendency of many apple and pear trees to form flower buds on unpruned two year old laterals. It is a technique best utilised for the strong laterals on the outer part of the tree where there is room for such growth. Pruning long neglected fruit trees is a task that should be undertaken over a lengthy period, with not more than one third of the branches that require removal being taken each year.
*Regulatory pruning: This is carried out on the tree as a whole, and is aimed at keeping the tree and its environment healthy, eg, by keeping the centre open so that air can circulate, removing dead or diseased wood, preventing branches from becoming over crowded (branches should be roughly 50 cm apart and spurs not less than 25 cm apart along the branch framework), and preventing any branches from crossing.

Pruning of tip bearers

Tip bearers should be pruned lightly in winter using the regulatory system (see above). any maiden shoots less than 25 cm in length should be left untouched as they have fruit buds at their tips. Longer shoots are spur pruned to prevent over-crowding and to stimulate the production of more short tip bearing shoots the following year. Branch leaders are 'tipped', removing the top three or four buds to a bud facing in the desired direction to make them branch out and so produce more tip bearing shoots.

ee also

*Fruit tree forms
*Fruit tree propagation
*Fruit tree pollination
*Orchards


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Fruit tree propagation — is usually carried out through asexual reproduction by grafting or budding the desired variety onto a suitable rootstock. Perennial plants can be propagated either by sexual or vegetative means. Sexual reproduction occurs when male pollen from… …   Wikipedia

  • Fruit tree forms — The shapes of most fruit trees can be manipulated by pruning and training in order to increase yield, or to improve their suitability for different situations and conditions. Pruning a tree to a pyramid shape means that trees can be planted… …   Wikipedia

  • Fruit tree — A fruit tree is a tree bearing fruit mdash; the structures formed by the ripened ovary of a flower containing one or more seeds. However, because all trees of flowering plants produce fruit (essentially all trees except tree ferns and… …   Wikipedia

  • Pruning — For other uses of the term Pruning , see Pruning (disambiguation). Pruning in landscaping and gardening is the practice of removing diseased, non productive, or otherwise unwanted portions from a plant. The purpose of pruning is to shape the… …   Wikipedia

  • fruit farming — Introduction       growing of fruit crops, including nuts, primarily for use as human food.       The subject of fruit and nut production deals with intensive culture of perennial plants, the fruits of which have economic significance (a nut is a …   Universalium

  • pruning — ▪ horticulture       in horticulture, the removal or reduction of parts of a plant, tree, or vine that are not requisite to growth or production, are no longer visually pleasing, or are injurious to the health or development of the plant. Pruning …   Universalium

  • fruit — fruitlike, adj. /frooht/, n., pl. fruits, (esp. collectively) fruit, v. n. 1. any product of plant growth useful to humans or animals. 2. the developed ovary of a seed plant with its contents and accessory parts, as the pea pod, nut, tomato, or… …   Universalium

  • Prune — This article is about the fruit trees and their fruit. For the trimming of fruit tree branches, see fruit tree pruning. For pruning of trees and plants in general, see Pruning. Fresh prunes (Prunus domestica) …   Wikipedia

  • Apple — This article is about the fruit. For the technology company, see Apple Inc.. For other uses, see Apple (disambiguation). Apple tree redirects here. For other uses, see Apple tree (disambiguation) …   Wikipedia

  • Ramification (botany) — Ramification, in botany, is the divergence of the stem and limbs of a plant into smaller ones, i.e. trunk into branches, branches into increasingly smaller branches, etc. Gardeners stimulate the process of ramification through pruning, thereby… …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.