Winter is the time to prune your fruit trees to establish and maintain structure. Pruning your trees can be very intimidating because you may not know where to start. Here are a few tips for successfully pruning:
1. Clean- First priority is making sure that your tools are clean. Pruners that have not been sanitized can spread diseases and a simple solution of 1 part bleach, 10 parts water will effectively sanitize your tools.
2. Sharp- There is nothing worse than making a cut with dull pruners and ending up with a frayed branch. This makes your plant more susceptible for bacteria and fungi to enter. If you have a dull, cheap pair of pruners it may be time to buy a new pair or sharpen the ones you have.
Now we can start pruning Stone Fruits! Always cut at an angle so water is able to easily bead off. The first thing to prune is any branches that have any of the three D’s: Dead, Diseased, and Dying. These can be identified by discoloration, broken branches, and stiff branches that are young. Young trees are identified as 1-3 years of age. The sooner you are able to start pruning the better because this is when your structure is established and is easiest to manipulate. Next is to prune any branches that are crossing each other or are growing in that direction. This is also the time to think about how you would like to shape your tree. Do you want a low, wide tree for easy picking? Maybe you would like a taller, narrow tree so that you are able to have room for more trees in the future. Espaliers are an option if you have very limited space and can be attractively trained on a trellis.
Any way you decide, establishing structure is training your branches to go in the exact direction you would like them to. You can do this by paying attention to the direction of the buds on the branches. If you would like a wider tree, prune just above a bud that is pointing outward. If you would like a tall, narrow tree do just the opposite—prune just above a bud that is pointing inward.
As for multi budded trees, establishing structure is extremely important in the health of your tree. Since there are different varieties on your rootstock, all can grow differently. It is your job to make these branches grow as equal as possible. If a multi budded tree is not pruned at all, it is very possible that one branch will grow faster and bigger than all the others. This will make the small branches really struggle because they are receiving less energy and less sunlight from being shaded out from the leader. In result, the weakest branches will just die off—wasting your money!
As much as you would like to, pruning citrus trees for structure is just not a good idea. Citrus trees like to be left alone and don’t respond well to hard pruning. Although, you should prune suckers and water sprouts all the way back. Suckers are branches that are growing out of the rootstock low on your tree. Water sprouts are long branches growing above the graft that shoots straight up and out of the canopy. Pruning suckers and water sprouts will put needed energy back into the rest of your tree. You will also need to prune back any of the 3 D’s: Dead, Diseased, and Dying along with crossing branches.
In the nursery we often have people bring in a citrus tree sample and ask… “What is wrong with my tree??” This sample I am referring to is Leafminer and has become a big problem not only in backyard orchard culture, but also for commercial growers as well. Citrus Leafminer (see photo here) is an insect that makes its way in between the cuticles of the leaf, leaving their droppings in a trail you are able to see. Although the problem is only aesthetic at first, not taking care of the problem can put stress on your tree so it is best to monitor populations with the Pest Wizard Citrus Leafminer trap then treat the tree with Monterey Horticultural Oil with Monterey Takedown Garden Spray when the insect is present. This mixture will also kill scale, aphids, and whiteflies. This will be your dormant spray for citrus. Use this mixture NOW and around Valentine’s Day. Citrus Leafminer is very aggressive and is everywhere, so it is very possible your tree will get them again. The reason you spray now is to get a control on the population so new growth is able to push out. You may find that the trap is a very good control and you may not even need to spray!
Peaches, Nectarines, Plums, Apricots, Pluots, Cherries, Apples and Pears
The dormant spray needed for Stone Fruits is Liqui-Cop mixed with the Horticultural Oil and Takedown Spray. The Horticultural Oil helps the Liqui-Cop stick onto the tree. These prevent Shothole and Leaf Curl which does not show up until Spring so NOW is the time to spray! We recommend you spray three times during the dormant season, which is Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day. The dates do not to be exact, just a great way to remind you when to spray throughout the season! Click to download our Dormant Spray Cocktail
We recommend using Master Nursery Bumper Crop Fruit Tree Fertilizer. This is an organic fertilizer and should be applied once every three months.
Written by Allana from The Greenery