How to prune fruit trees

In New Zealand’s warmer climes, fruit trees are a Kiwi backyard staple. From lemons and grapefruit, through to apple and feijoa, there is certainly no shortage of options to fill the fruit bowl. However, not every homeowner knows how to make sure their tree produces the best fruit – which is paramount if you’re an average Kiwi kid trying to sell homemade lemonade outside your house.


If you only planted fruit trees to see what would happen, or you inherited them from a previous homeowner, then you may not have inherited the knowledge that goes with them. No matter how you came to be in possession of a fruit tree, however, it’s a good idea to find out how to treat it right. Below, you will find all the information you require on pruning fruit trees and general fruit tree care.


Why You Need to Carry Out Tree Pruning on Fruit Trees

Even if you’re not much of a gardener, it’s important to know the basics of tree trimming or have contact information for someone who does. Otherwise, you may not bear the best fruit – or have the best-looking fruit trees either.


Pruning trees is essential for many reasons. Firstly, it makes the time for harvesting that much easier. If you let your fruit trees grow large and unwieldy, then how can you possibly hope to collect the fruit from them? Reducing the size of your tree every year, while keeping it in healthy growth, helps to make harvesting the literal fruits of your labour that much less labour-intensive.


However, tree trimming can also have some surprising side effects for the health of your fruit trees. When you undertake tree pruning, you are encouraging new stems to grow, which help to create a bountiful harvest. You are also enabling better airflow and light to promote ripening. As a rule of thumb, there should be a gap through the center of the tree large enough for a small bird to fly through.


Finally, tree pruning is beneficial for achieving the desired shape in your yard, as well as removing any branches that are dead, dying, damaged, or diseased.


When Do Fruit Trees Not Require Tree Trimming?

Believe it or not, there are now new fruit tree varieties available that require no pruning. These include dwarf cultivars such as nectarine, peach, apple, and apricot trees. Ask a gardening expert whether your fruit trees need tree pruning or if they are of the prune-free variety.


When to Begin Tree Pruning of Fruit Trees

If you are new to fruit tree ownership, or you are beginning to take an interest in the ones you have, then you may wonder when a good time is to undertake tree pruning. The best time for pruning trees can depend on the type of fruit they bear.


Apple and pear trees require annual tree trimming every winter to help prepare for an even better crop than the year before. Kiwifruit trees, however, need pruning in winter back to five buds. You then have to tie long branches back so you can train them to follow a particular shape. You will also need to do the same for cherry trees.


With feijoa and citrus trees, you can start tree trimming right after harvesting. Wait until frosts pass and you may also get away with biennial pruning.  If you are lucky enough to have a thriving nectarine, peach, or plum tree, then ensure you undertake tree pruning in summer. If you choose to prune in winter, you may end up spreading disease which ruins crops.


How to Get Started with Pruning Your Fruit Trees

While you can begin tree pruning yourself, there are also plenty of expert gardeners who can help with tree trimming and all manner of tasks. If you lack the time, tools, or confidence to trim your fruit trees yourself, then make a call to avoid your fruit trees getting neglected. Alternatively, in a few steps, you can be on your way to confident tree pruning on your own.


1. Choose the best day

The best day for tree trimming is a dry day with no wind. Wait until the grounds are dry and there is no hint of rain in the air. By doing so, you can limit the spread of any diseases or fungal spores which could ruin your crops.


2. Prune properly

The best way to prune your fruit trees is by using a pair of sharp secateurs. These can help you achieve a clean, angled cut above the buds. Don’t prune to excess.


3. Clean up

While garden tidy-ups are something you can hire someone else to take care of, you can also do it yourself. Remove all the clippings and dispose of all the mess you made. You may also like to clean your secateurs after use and before storage.


4. Set them up for winter

Fruit trees are prone to winter diseases, so after you finish with tree trimming, you may like to set them up to survive. If you have any deciduous fruit trees, spray them with a copper-based concoction to prevent winter disease.


Whether you’ve had fruit trees for a long time or you’re new to gardening altogether, you will enjoy your new-found hobby. However, not everyone has the time for tree trimming and taking care of fruit trees. Need extra help with your fruit tree? Get in contact with a Crewcut specialist!

Zach White