Pruning Fruit Trees In Beaverton's Backyard Orchards

Fruit trees are a wonderful way to start gardening. There is something very satisfying about picking your own fruit, sharing it with others, and eating it yourself. You will always have fruit available once you plant a tree!

For beginners, planting a fruit tree can be very easy. Most local garden stores will sell young fruit tree plants for around $10-20, which is an extremely reasonable price. These plants come in a variety of kinds, so there is probably one for anyone who wants to start gardening with one.

Taking care of a young fruit tree is also very easy. Most need water every few days and some soil maintenance every now and then, but that is about it! Pruning your tree may seem tricky at first, but we will explain how to do it below.

Why do fruit tree pruning?

Pruning fruit trees in Beaverton's backyard orchards

Pruning is done to shape the tree or remove parts of the tree in order to allow more light, airflow, and space into the tree for growth.

For trees that produce fruit, pruning is also done to increase fruit production. By pruning certain parts of the tree, you are promoting new growth and young leaves, which means more opportunity for the fruit trees to grow flowers and fruits.

Pruning older trees can help curb disease and decay as well. By periodically removing older branches and trees that are no longer productive, you are reducing the amount of stress on the tree.

Beaverton's backyard orchards have annual spring pruning sessions where volunteers come out and prune the orchard trees.

When to prune fruit trees?

Pruning fruit trees in Beaverton's backyard orchards

Pruning is an important part of maintaining a fruit tree. When you prune your tree, you are removing parts of the tree in order to shape it and prepare it for new growth.

There are two times of year when you can prune your tree. The first is in winter, before spring bud burst. The second is in summer or early fall after fruit has been harvested.

Some trees, such as pome fruits like apples and pears, do best if pruned in winter. These trees have what is called a fruiting spur that produces the fruit. The fruiting spur grows out from the trunk or branch and up to the top of the tree where the leaves are.

In winter, you can carefully cut back the fruiting spur so that next year’s growth starts from the stem at the bottom of the spur and grows up to the top of the tree.

How to prune a fruit tree?

Pruning fruit trees in Beaverton's backyard orchards

Pruning is the process of cutting away parts of a tree or shrub. Pruning can be done for a variety of reasons, but most commonly it is done to manage size and shape, to promote new growth and fruit production, and to manage age-related decline.

There are two main types of pruning that backyard orchardists usually do: regular annual pruning and tree shaping (or corrective) pruning. Annual pruning is done every year around the same time, while corrective pruning can be done any time there is a problem with the tree.

Annual Pruning

There are several important annual tasks for fruit trees. The first is called thinning. This means removing some of the flowers on the tree. This is done to prevent too many fruits from developing at the same time, which would stress out the tree and reduce longevity.

The second annual task is called pollination. Some trees need assistance in transferring pollen from the male parts of the flower to the female part (the little fruit that eventually develops into the fruit we eat).

Make the tree sturdy

Pruning fruit trees in Beaverton's backyard orchards

Once the trees are sturdy, you can begin to shape the tree. This involves pruning branches that are too tall or too thick, and removing dead or diseased branches.

You can also prune some of the interior branches to create a more open tree structure. By doing this, you are preparing your tree for the future fruit harvest.

Beaverton’s orchardists recommend pruning trees every one to two years, depending on the type of fruit and how it grows. For example, prune cherry trees when they’re young, but allow them to grow into an older tree before you start pruning them.

Prune apples and pears when they’re dormant, in winter or early spring before they start growing new leaves and flowers. Pruning citrus fruits at any time of year is fine.

Keep the branches close to the ground

Pruning fruit trees in Beaverton's backyard orchards

When you are pruning your tree, make sure you are not removing too many branches. You want to keep enough leaves on the tree to shade it from the sun so it can grow new roots.

Additionally, you want to leave enough branches so that future prunings can be used as rootstock for a new tree. You can also give your prunings to other people or plant stores to do this.

Make sure to prune the branches close to the trunk or root system so that they have adequate sunlight and water circulation.

Favor low-lying branches

When choosing which branches to remove, choose low-lying branches that you can easily reach and that are not needed for future tree growth. These can be branches that have died from old age or were damaged by a storm, disease, or pest infestation.

Removing these lets you open up the canopy of the tree, letting in more sun and air flow. This is important for fruit trees as they grow older and need to develop a strong root system and adequate space for fruits to grow.

If there are no low-lying branches, then you can choose to prune a central trunk branch or a leading branch to promote higher branching. Central trunks tend to make the tree more symmetrical and less dense, giving it more aesthetic appeal.

Be careful not to prune too many central trunk branches or the tree will be unbalanced.

Know which trees you have

Pruning fruit trees in Beaverton's backyard orchards

Before you can begin to prune your fruit trees, you must know what kind of tree you have. This is important so you can find out how to prune your tree correctly.

There are many different kinds of fruit trees, so it is important to study up before you start chopping away at your tree. Whether you find this research online, in a book, or from a local expert, knowing the correct way to prune your tree will keep it healthy.

Prescott Orchard offers classes on how to care for different fruit trees, if you are looking for some extra knowledge before starting on your project. They also offer pre-pruning workshops prior to planting the trees, so that the root system develops properly and the trees grow strong.

The most common mistake made by novice gardeners is removing the wrong branches! Make sure to know what kind of tree you have and check with experts before doing any pruning.

Use proper plant support structures

Pruning fruit trees in Beaverton's backyard orchards

Once the trees are planted in the orchard, you will need to ensure that the trees have proper support structures. Trees need something to grow into, out of, and up.

Trees can be planted in the ground, on a tree stump or root base, or even in a container. In an orchard setting where there is limited space, trees should be planted in the ground at least one tree diameter apart.

If planting on a mound of soil or sod, plant the tree at least one diameter deeper than it was in the nursery so that it has enough footing to establish roots. If planting in a container, use a sturdy one that has drainage holes.

When planting more than one tree together, make sure to provide adequate space between them for growth and development.

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