Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
January, 2001
Regional Report

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Prune fruit trees now to produce large, lush fruit later in the season.

Pruning Fruits & Berries

February is the big month for pruning deciduous fruit and nut trees and vines in our region. To get started, sharpen your pruning tools and gather your equipment. An excellent, inexpensive, and easily used disinfectant for a pruning tool is rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol. To avoid spreading any diseases, wipe pruning shears with the alcohol after several cuts. Now onto the pruning cuts themselves.

Pruning Fruit Trees

To follow the basic guidelines for winter pruning of trees, remove crowded or crossed branches, open the center of the growth to increase light exposure and airflow, cut off branches that are structurally weak, and remove vigorous vertical-growing branches (waterspouts).

You can also prune to reduce the height or width of a tree, but don't prune too much in a single year, as that encourages excessive new foliage and less fruit. For major height reduction, take 3 years to prune the total amount you want to remove.

Protecting the Cuts

Pruning cuts that are under 1-1/2 inches across don't need protective covering, but paint larger cuts with an off-white or sand-colored interior latex paint that has a matte finish, not a glossy one. Black asphalt substances or dark-colored paint, especially on south-facing surfaces, will concentrate the sun's heat - baking and killing the tissue that the tree is trying to heal.

Pruning Citrus

Pruning citrus trees requires a different approach. Citrus trees should remain bushy. Remove only dead wood. Avoid heading back branches (cutting only part of the branch off), since that will remove wood that would have blossomed and set fruit this coming season.

Pruning Berries

Cane berries, such as raspberries and blackberries, are most easily pruned when all their leaves have fallen off and the buds have just begun to swell and show their light pink color. Then the dead canes are quite recognizable and thorns more easily avoided. Prune each strong cane from the crown to just above its point of attachment to horizontal wire used as a trellis around bramble fruits. Be careful not to injure the new pink shoots at the crown - those will bear fruit next year.

Prune side shoots just after the third strong bud from the bottom. Spread and re-anchor the upright canes evenly along the trellis to keep the area open for good ventilation and to promote the even spread of new foliage.

This pruning and trellising procedure will encourage strong growth of fruiting vines but not of unnecessary foliage. An easier variation of this approach is to clean-cut half of the berry vines every 2 years. Then you'll always have a year-old patch to bear fruit the following summer, and you can clear the other patch by clean-cutting.

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