Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
September, 2011
Regional Report

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Summer pruning: Hack off all branches taller than you can easily reach!

Last Summer Fruit Tree Pruning

Pruning fruit trees down to easy harvestable height during the summer encourages new growth further down in the tree. The time to do it is immediately following the harvest. This time frame can extend through the entire summer, depending on type of fruit and variety, from apricots in early summer through apples in October.

The point is to "tell" the tree that:
1) You don't want it wasting energy growing branches taller than you can reach from the ground. For me, this is six feet -- as high as my hands with a hand-pruner can snip.
2) You do want the tree to expend energy growing many branches further down in the tree. All this new wood will become fruiting branches that are easy for you to reach for future harvesting and pruning.

Summer pruning results in several benefits:

You have only one or a few trees to prune at any one time.

You don't have to "think" about summer pruning -- you just hack off the branches that are taller than you can easily snip with a pair of handpruners.

You have to prune and dispose of only little branches now.

In January, you'll only have to do fine-tune pruning of dormant wood to just above outer-facing nodes where the new growth has developed.

In January, you won't have to deal with the bulk of six-foot or longer branches that would result if you didn't do summer pruning.

The tree will redirect its energy to sprouting branches lower on the tree, so you'll have a greater area of harvestable fruit.

In essence, you'll gain a whole year's tree growth -- and in the part of the tree that you can easily reach. And the tree's energy won't be going into wood you waited until dormant time to prune!

Next year, do this summer pruning right after you pick the last fruits off of each tree. This will give the tree the most time to develop new growth before going dormant in winter.

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