The Q&A Archives: Pruning Mature Nut Trees

Question: I am now taking care of an estate which has many mature black walnut and hickory trees. Should I plan to prune these trees annually, as I do the apple trees?

Answer: Unlike some fruiting and flowering trees, nuts don't require yearly pruning to ensure production. Pruning nut trees is a matter of maintaining form so they grow strong and healthy. Hopefully the previous caretaker pruned the nut trees to form. Nut trees should have a strong central trunk with main branches spaced evenly in a spiral around the trunk. Ideally, the junction between trunk and branch should be a wide one, as narrow crotches are weak, prone to breaking and disease. Your job will be to simply remove any dead wood (anytime), and remove crossing, crowded and misplaced branches in the fall during nut drop. Since these are probably large trees, you may want to enlist the help of an arborist, who will have all the necessary equipment such as lifts, ropes, etc.

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