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The Art of Fruit Tree Pruning

If you keep fruit trees the time has come to begin the 2020 growing season! That’s right, it’s time to prune. We have begun pruning at our demonstration orchard at the SW Colorado Research Center and the weather has been cooperating wonderfully. This is the ideal time to prune as the trees are still dormant but are getting ready to wake up. Pruning during dormancy keeps the tree stress to a minimum. As I write this article the last of our snowpack is going away so accessing the orchard is much easier than last year when we had to drag our tools around on a sled due to deep snow drifts. Our progress is good so far but we will need to keep up on it to finish before our trees break dormancy.

To keep up with traditions for this column, the following is the pruning article from Dan Fernandez, Retired Dolores County Extension Director. There is no way I could write this any better so here it is.

On March 5th, starting at 9am at the CSU Yellow Jacket Experiment Station, the Dolores and Montezuma County Extension offices will be conducting its annual FRUIT TREE PRUNING WORKSHOP. There is a $15.00 charge for the workshop. This workshop will last all day so bring a lunch, something to drink and a chair to sit on and warm clothes for the outdoor demonstrations. Please RSVP at 677-2283.

When the weather finally warms up you may want to consider getting a head start on your fruit tree pruning, especially if you have a lot of trees to prune. If you only have a few trees (1 to 20) then waiting until March won’t hurt. The following are some tips on pruning.

Basics of Pruning

a. It's personal, and must be customized to your location

b. Promote tree development to your management scheme

c. Production - early and consistent is the goal

d. Tree support and strength are critical factors

e. Reducing the effects of shading is essential

When to Prune

a. Pruning starts the first season the tree is planted - but only lightly - pruning intensifies as the tree ages

b. Prune March or early April depending on how many trees there are to prune-the later the better

c. Pruning must be completed before bud swell/bloom

d. Summer corrective pruning is advisable

e. Do not prune after August 1

f. Do not prune early to mid-winter

Pruning Equipment

a. Sterilize all equipment before and during use - especially if diseases are present

b. Hand saws and pruners, loppers and air powered equipment are acceptable

c. Use chain saws only as a last resort

d. Keep all equipment sharp and clean

e. Use only 3 point orchard ladders

Pruning Cuts

a. Pruning cuts should always be flush and smooth, and never flat where water could accumulate

b. Avoid limb tearing and bark peeling

c. Bark damage that is jagged should be smoothed out

d. Do not cut into the 'collar' of a limb

e. Do not use pruning paints or dressings

Tree Shape, Size

a. For apples, pears and cherries a central leader or modified central leader system works well - think of the shape of a Christmas tree

b. Peaches require an open center with 2 to 4 main scaffold limbs

c. Tree size is determined by what you feel you can manage - a 10 to 12 foot tree is a lot of tree

d. For all trees, limb angles should be between 45 and 60 degrees to promote good fruit development and limb strength

How Much do I Prune

a. It's personal depending on your management scheme and desired pruning system

b. First - step back and look at the tree - then walk around the tree - start pruning slowly

c. Remove dead, broken or diseased branches

d. Remove congested or crossing branches and twigs

e. Use heading cuts to promote side branching

f. Remove all root suckers and water sprouts

g. Heavy pruning can reduce fruit production, but enhance fruit size

h. Old tree rejuvenation requires a lot of corrective pruning with subsequent reduction in production likely for 2 to 4 seasons

Information provided by CSU Extension and Dolores County.

Seedling Tree Order Forms for the Dove Creek Conservation District are available.

The Pruning Workshop will be March 5th from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at the SW Colorado CSU Research Center in Yellow Jacket, CO. Bring a chair, warm clothing, water, snacks and lunch. Call our office for more information.

There is still time to join the Dolores County 4-H Club!! Contact us for details!! For further information concerning these topics or any other subject, stop in or call Gus, Oma, and Joey at the Colorado State University Dolores County Extension Office, 677-2283. Cooperative Extension programs are available to all without discrimination.

Dove Creek Press

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