Fruits Of Your Labors: How To Keep Your Fruit Trees Healthy Through Pruning

Fruit trees add a lot to your yard's landscaping. Not only do they provide what all trees do -- shade, beauty and privacy -- but they also yield tasty fruit you can enjoy all year long. But it's important to care for your fruiting trees so that they live long and healthy lives. Here are the 5 steps to keeping your tree in its best condition.

  • Prune your young tree aggressively for about the first 3 years. Vertical pruning (trimming the vertical branches instead of horizontal ones) helps encourage the tree to grow full and bushy and sets the stage for more fruit-bearing branches. This is because branches that get more sun will develop more fruit. 
  • Prune in the winter when the tree is dormant. This time of year, the tree has fewer leaves to block your view and it's easier to identify weak or damaged branches. Fruit trees are less likely to develop infections from the cuts or spread fungus when they are dormant. 
  • When pruning, first remove anything that appears dead or unhealthy. Low-hanging branches that dip down below 90 degrees will not provide much fruit and only zap life from healthier ones. 
  • After removing sick branches, thin the tree to help it flower and get more sunlight. Remove many small branches, water sprouts (branches growing from buds on the trunk), suckers and most of the completely vertical branches. The ideal branches should be between about 45 degrees and 60 degrees in angle from the trunk. Shape the tree as desired. 
  • When cutting branches, cut at an angle right below or above a bud near the joint of the branch. Do not leave stubs or trim too far along the branch, as both of these cuts will encourage new growth in places you don't want it.
  • Never climb into the tree or onto ladders to prune. Stand on the ground and use hand-held pruning shears or a telescoping stick pruner. If you can't reach the needed areas from the ground, it may be best to consult a qualified tree trimming service, like Northern Virginia Tree Experts, Inc. Climbing and using ladders while trying to correctly prune the tree can be dangerous and is likely to result in poor quality cuts. 

Caring for your fruit trees can require some investment of time and energy. But by pruning correctly and at the right time of year, you can help ensure a vibrant, happy tree that will provide both beautiful flowers and delicious fruit.