Fruit Tree Pruning Q & A

When is the best time to prune my fruit trees?

The ideal time to prune your fruit trees in New Hampshire is February through March. The tree is dormant, bacteria is not present in the air, and the branch structure is clearly visible without leaves.Pruning Apple Trees

Can I prune my tree any other time of the year?

Yes. Any pruning done during the growing season should be minimal. Remove suckers and nip back fruiting wood only. Cutting out branches in the summer or fall can interfere with fruit production. Avoid pruning late fall to early winter. Your trees could sprout new growth that will be damaged when the temperatures drop.

What should I look for in pruning my fruit trees?

Fruit Bud on Apple Tree
The vertical growth tends to produce mostly leaves and branches. Think "vigorous-vegetative-vertical." These branches should be removed before they become too large and shade out the desirable fruiting wood.The older, slower growing wood that tends to grow more lateral supports the majority of fruit buds. These branches should only be nipped to prevent them from hanging down to the ground or getting so heavy that the branch breaks under the weight of the fruit. As the tree grows you will need to thin it for easy picking and allowing sunlight to penetrate.

How hard should I cut my fruit tree back?

When an Apple tree is small do not cut the central leader at all. Think of a Apple tree like a vine. The original stem of a tree produces the majority of fruit. The cePeach Treenter leader of the young fruit tree should be allowed to grow 15 to 18 feet before nipping it. To avoid the tree tipping over with the weight of the fruit, scratch off the fruiting buds on the topmost part of the central leader. Over time you will begin to prune back the top and maintain a trapezoid shape with the bottom branches extending past the top. This prevents the upper part of the tree from shading out the fruit on the easy-to-pick lower branches.

A Peach tree, however, should be topped out from the center and pruned as if it were a multi-stemmed shrub.

A peach tree with the central leader topped out.
If peach trees are left grow on their own they will easily
reach 25 feet and be impractical to pick. Pruning of peach trees should be done closer to spring to avoid winter injury.Collar cut

Should I paint the cuts after I make them?

No. Wound dressing is an outdated practice. Recent scientific research has discovered that painting the cut only traps decay-causing bacteria under the paint. The best way to prevent decay is to make a proper cut along the branch collar.