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Time to Prune!

Now is the time to get out and do your pruning. If you missed my pruning basics class, there are many resources available showing how to prune and the proper technique for different training methods. Not pruning is usually worse than your making a sincere effort, however feeble.


Use bypass pruners rather than the cheaper versions that only have one blade. Bypass pruners have jaws that cross each other, leading to a cleaner cut that will heal quickly. Larger, two-handed, lopping shears and/or a hand saw should be used on any branches larger than ½ inch diameter. Invest in the right equipment. You won’t be disappointed.

General Concepts

The goal is to create a strong structure to hold the right amount of growing fruit for quality produce. Regardless of the type of fruit tree, you should, 1) Remove any dead or diseased branches. 2) Remove water sprouts, which are the tall skinny shoots that arise directly from the branches or trunk on the interior of the tree. 3) Remove any branches that cross, rub or grow back towards the center of the tree. 4) Never remove more than about 1/3 of the branches on a neglected tree. Instead space your pruning over a period of years. 5) There is seldom a branch growing exactly where you want so work with what the tree has given you.

Apples and Pears

These should be pruned to some version of a central leader system. What this means is that you should maintain a central stalk/trunk with scaffold branches coming off the central stalk that will produce your fruit. These main branches should be evenly spaced up the central stalk and give the tree good balance. Main branches should have a 45 to 60-degree angle between the trunk and branch. Branches often want to grow less than this angle. Use spacers or weights to increase this crotch angle while branches are still pliable. Spacers are better but I use old socks with rocks.

Peach, Apricot and Plum

These should be pruned to an open center or open vase system. This means that instead of having a central trunk, the tree should instead be open in the center with 3-4 main branches evenly distributed radially out from the central point. Aside from these main scaffold branches, all branches above and below should be removed. As the tree produces fruit there is a natural tendency for the scaffold branches to spread out and maintain an open center. Any growth on scaffold branches arising within 6 inches of the main trunk should be removed.

There are countless intricacies and ideologies in the pruning world. It is easy to become intimidated but avoiding pruning is not a viable alternative. Do your best and you will be much closer to success than doing nothing at all. Simple Pruning: In-Depth Pruning:

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