It’s Time to Prune Tree and Berry Fruits!
Posted: February 12, 2012
By Mary Concklin
Fall bearing (everbearing) raspberries:
These are by far the simplest fruits to prune! For a single crop in late summer or fall, remove all canes to the ground. These canes produced fruit last season, and left up, will produce a smaller crop further down the canes in early summer. However, if you would like a crop this coming summer, wait and remove the canes to the ground after you finish picking the berries.
Summer bearing brambles: Remove all the canes that produced fruit last season. These will not produce a crop this next year. What is left are the canes that were vegetative last summer. Many varieties produce many more canes than are needed, some strong and others weak. Remove all weak canes and then thin out the remaining canes to allow for light penetration. This will have a two-fold affect—it will allow the remaining canes to grow strong and healthy, and it will reduce disease incidence because the foliage and canes will be able to dry faster than crowded canes. Leave four to six cane per running foot of row.
Blueberries: Remove weak, low vigor canes, and canes that are broken and diseased. Blueberries produce the largest volume of
berries on canes that are no older than six years old. For each year of growth from one to six, there should be two to three canes. For a six year old bush and older, you should have twelve to eighteen canes.
Strawberries: June bearing strawberries are ’pruned’ immediately after harvest by mowing off the leaves, DO NOT hit the crown. If you missed that timing do not prune them now. Wait until after you finish picking in late June or early July.
Apples, Pears, Cherries, Plums: Try to imagine what your tree will look like once it is fully leafed out later this spring. Will sunlight be able to penetrate the canopy? Developing fruit and buds need sunlight. Now look at your tree. Before removing any branches, look at the point on the trunk where the branch comes out. There is a collar. When removing a branch it is healthier for the tree’s recovery to leave the collar intact.
Remove branches that are laying on top of other branches, branches or suckers that are growing upright (other than the main upright central leader), remove branches growing down toward the ground (fruit will tend to be small on these branches). Do not remove all the fruiting wood in towards the center of the tree or all your fruit will be pushed to the outer ends of the branches. You have a whole tree so use the whole tree to produce fruit. The short stubby growth in toward the center will bear fruit so should be left unless it is dead or weak.
Black ugly looking growths are the Black Knot disease and are often times found on plums and cherries. These should be pruned out four inches below the knot and removed from the area to prevent spread.
An often asked question is, should I or can I cut the ends of the branches back. The answer lies in what variety you are pruning, why you want to cut them back and how they are growing. If the branch is healthy yet the tip has drooped well below the 90 degree point, you may want to prune back to a lateral branch that is growing above the 90 degree plane. Be sure you don’t leave a stub. Some varieties naturally have a ‘leggy’ or ‘willowy’ growth habit. Keep this in mind as you shape the tree.
Peaches and Nectarines: DO NOT prune at this time. Peaches should be pruned in the spring when the danger of severe frost is over.
Did you know?
What do you do with the thin canes and branches from pruning grapes, trees and shrubs? Chip them and use for mulch or throw them in the woods to break down over time.
While the canes and branches are supple, bend and connect them into interesting shapes for garden ornamentation; weave them into baskets and wreathes; make an arbor, a small one for fairy gardens or a larger one to walk under; trellises; supports for some of your ornamentals that tend to flop or bend over as they grow. So many uses. If you can imagine it, you can probably do it. Have fun!