Fruit Tree Pruning

Bill Brandt, California Rare Fruit Grower and Past President of Organic Garden Club, lead a fun and informative Fruit Tree Pruning Workshop on August 24, 2019 at the Las Flores Community Orchard.

Four Steps to Pruning Fruit Trees with Tips by Bill Brandt

  1. Cut the whips (top growth from last year’s growth) two to three feet to just above last year’s cut. 
  2. Remove crossing branches. Create an upside down umbrella shape.
  3. Thin branches (where too many branches compete) to one strong branch.  
  4. Remove dead, diseased or damaged branches. When removing branches, prune just outside the “collar” (about 1/4” away from trunk) not even with trunk. 

Fruit trees can be pruned in the winter or after the harvest in the summer. Before pruning, sterilize all pruning shears and saws with a solution of 10% chlorine, 90% Isopropyl alcohol. A pole pruner is handy when pruning standard fruit trees and will extend the reach up to 12 feet in the air.

Spring is the time to whitewash trunks and main branches. Use light color latex paint which you have thinned 50% with water. This prevents “Sunburn” which kills bark on sunny side of trunk/branch. Sunburn leads to Pacific flathead borer damage or death of trees. 

Because fruit trees are grafted to a different root stock for propagation, gardeners must remove shoots growing below the graft union. Also, trim off little branches growing on the trunk up to 3 or 4 feet. A “Collar”at that height (either stove pipe style, or cone shape like bird feeders have) will discourage critters from eating fruit.  To block rodents, plant the tree away from fences and remove stakes and other accesses to the tree.

Remove all diseased twigs and branches and put them in the trash, not the compost, and sterilize the pruners. Prune above outward facing buds, where the new branch will grow in the direction the bud is pointing.  New growth will develop away from the center of the tree, leaving the center open to air and sunlight to keep away disease and produce healthier fruit.

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