Pruning fruit trees
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Growing Fruit Trees in Maine
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Nature menu. Nature Research menu. Search Article search Search. Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. The right ladder is the first step to keep you safe and I highly recommend a three-legged orchard ladder. Keep you body centered between the rungs of the ladder. It might be tempting to try and reach over to prune a branch that is just out of reach but you risk either tipping the ladder or falling off of it. When in doubt of your abilities or lack of appropriate ladders, you may need to hire an arbourist , as they have the right ladders, experience and skills to do the job safely.
Those branches are going to fall down , since your hands will be occupied holding the pruners or saw while you cut. Thick, heavy branches can severely injure anyone standing underneath. If anyone is helping you, they ideally should be wearing a safety hardhat or helmet to protect their head.
Or they need to keep a safe distance away. Make sure you agree on commands and communicate with your helper prior to cutting a branch off, so they know that something will be coming down and where. Thin branches may seem safe as they are not as heavy. However they are more likely to poke someone in the eye, ear, nose or mouth which can cause severe injuries. You can trip if you snag your foot under a larger branch, or poke yourself if a branch sticks into the ground, sticking up like a picket.
Growing Fruit Trees in Maine
You can also use this time to monitor your progress by stepping back from the tree. If you have a helper, they can cleanup but they need to be careful about falling branches if you continue to prune. Often the advice is to prune stone fruit trees in summer. I also fear knocking off the fruit, especially for peaches that ripen late in the summer. And your trees may get some new growth in response to being pruned in summer. This can cause the young foliage to be damaged if you get an early frost. When it is cold a tree will likely not try and put out new growth until it warms up in spring.
The idea of pruning in late winter is to prepare the tree for the spring when the weather warms up.
How to Prune Fruit Trees To Improve Your Harvest Next Summer
Over the course of the previous growing season, the tree will have stored energy in its roots. Once the weather warms up all that energy is going to go back into the branches. More energy and less branches means each branch will be loaded with energy and able to produce more leaves, blossoms and eventually fruit. At least that is the theory. At the start of the new year is a good trigger to go out into your garden to prune. I try to do my pruning between Christmas and New Year as I have time off from work.
If it is cold, bundle up.
If it is wet, you may want to wait for a drier day, not only for your own comfort but that of your trees. There are various different shapes of fruit trees such as espaliered, cordon, leader, etc. This needs to be done when it is planted.
Effects of Pruning on Fruit Trees | Nature
A scaffold of branches that will be at an angle to the trunk making a good strong join and even distance between each branch so that sunlight can reach into each leaf is the aim. There are several ways to form the scaffold;. A chalice or goblet shape is commonly used so that the tree doesn't get too tall. Picking fruit from the ground is much safer than from a ladder or scaffolding. Each branch emerges from around the same height on the trunk, and then pruned to form an upward curve. In time, these branches will form other smaller branches, and once the fruit forms, they will end up almost horizontal under the weight of it.
Another scaffold shape is in tiers, with several layers of branches.
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These are best in a commercial orchard situation where it's more convenient to pick the fruit with mechanical implements. In the home orchard, I like to have a low growing tree - most grafted trees will be grafted onto a dwarfing rootstock, which makes it possible to keep them small and compact. There's nothing like standing on the ground and picking fruit. Apple trees, along with their cousins, pear and quince trees should be pruned in early spring, before the sap starts to run which is a fancy way of saying before the leaves start to bud. In some methods of fruit tree pruning such as espalier training a tree to grow against a wall or trellis there is also some summer pruning, but for ordinary pruning, stick with the one time in spring.