Planting fruit trees in your backyard will save you money and time that you would have spent purchasing fruits at one of the local stores. Just like other landscaping trees, there are a number of tree care procedures that you need to carry out periodically to promote their growth and productivity. Pruning is one of the essential tasks that you need to carry out to keep the tree health.
Here is a guide to help you do it correctly.
Step 1: Clean Up the Tree
This does not mean washing the tree with water and soap; it refers to pruning away sections of the tree that are diseased, dead, or damaged. Sprouts that emerge at the base of the trunk should be removed. They are commonly referred to as suckers and are incapable of producing quality fruits. There are also sprouts that grow from the main branches; they too should be removed to give other branches ample space to grow and produce fruits.
Step 2: Thinning
The more branches that your trees have, the more nutrients they will need to produce fruits. Also, some of the branches will start to compete for the nutrients and space resulting in a handful of weak and unproductive branches. Thinning will help you get rid of such branches and foster growth of new branches. It also helps to allow optimal air and light penetration.
A recent study shows that properly thinned fruits trees are more productive and less prone to diseases and pest attacks. Do not forget to cut branches that grow downward or cross paths with other branches, as they make it almost impossible for pesticides to reach all parts of the tree when you spray.
You might also come across multiple branches growing from the same crotch in a parallel fashion or one hovering over the other. In such a scenario, you should retain only the branch that has the best crotch angle and looks health. This is because branches that have a wide crotch angle easily break when loaded with fruits while those with a narrow-angle tend to become bushy making it difficult to pick fruits. Experts recommend leaving a 6-12 inches air space between the branches.
Step 3: Head Back
This is the last step and the easiest; it involves pruning back the outermost growth sections of the tree. The primary essence of doing this is to make the branches shorter and thicker as they grow instead of gangly and long. Long branches often snap under the weight of fruit. Ideally, should cut off 20-30% of all the branches that grew in the last 12 months. One way of knowing the age of the branches is by looking at the wrinkly bark ring that encircles the stem.
According to fruit scientists, heading back triggers the tree hormones to activate maximum growth in the canopy. This in turn makes the tree shorter and more fruitful. It is also recommendable to ensure that you prune each branch back to at least ¼ inch above a bud that faces the direction you want the new branch to grow in the following year.
These are the four main steps that you should take when pruning fruit trees. Do not gamble with the health of your fruit trees, hire a professional tree care company if you do not know how to go about this task.