The Q&A Archives: Pruning Fruit Trees

Question: I have about ten fruit trees (pears, peaches, apples, plums). For the last two years, I have not been able to prune them at the proper time. (Last year, I was taking care of a friend who was dying, and this year, my husband and mother both had heart attacks the same weekend!) I am rather new to New England and was unsure of when I should do it. I read somewhere that February was the proper month but it seemed that the cold would hurt the trees. Now my trees are full of little fruit. However, they are also full of branches crossing over each other, branches shooting straight up ten or twelve feet. What should I do about the pruning. Can I prune the branches that are shooting straight up? I know it says that only one question should be submitted at a time, but these are all parts of the same question. Thanks in advance for your help.

Answer: It sounds like you've had quite a challenging time lately -- hopefully the garden will be a nice haven for you. It's true that February is the best time to prune your fruit trees. It may seem counter to common sense, but it really is best because the trees are dormant at that time. When the weather warms in spring, the tree will put its energy into the branches and buds that remain. You can safely prune crossing and misplaced branches this summer, but this may also encourage other buds to start growing weedy growth.

Each of these trees have specific pruning rules to maximize tree health and fruit yield. If you need more details on pruning each of these trees, your county Master Gardeners can help you with a pruning bulletin, or you can obtain a book on pruning from your library or bookstore...make sure they have good, clear diagrams. Enjoy!

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