Pruning advice needed

marnielee7March 15, 2014

Hi everyone, I freeze every time I go to prune my fruit trees this season (and it's not just because the weather has been so gosh darn cold)! Actually, I'm afraid to make a wrong move. I think I got the right type of tree structure started but I'm unsure about a couple of things concerning pruning. I watched a thousand youtube videos, read a thousand books on pruning; but now that I have multiple types of fruit trees, I'm just so confused! If you can offer any help I uploaded a video on youtube to show my dilemma... Thanks, marnie
http://youtu.be/1zgoLbmlRv0

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marnielee7

I don't think that was a clickable link.... maybe this one?... http://youtu.be/1zgoLbmlRv0

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 7:56PM
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marnielee7

I don't know why my links aren't clickable? Maybe this one?

Here is a link that might be useful: apple attempt

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 9:16PM
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marnielee7

Okay, got it!!!

Here is a link that might be useful: apricots

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 9:32PM
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marnielee7

I'm not sure how much to prune on my Asian pears. Do I have too many scaffold branches? Should I head back more? Can I make more drastic pruning cuts up top to lower the height of the tree? Thanks

Here is a link that might be useful: Asian pear

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 10:14PM
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marnielee7

What do I do about this European Plum now? Also, I have a 1 yr. old whip, should I go with open vase or modified central leader? Thanks

Here is a link that might be useful: European Plum

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 10:25PM
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loneranger_grow

I am no expert on pruning. I agree it is somewhat confusing. I follow a general trend to keep the inside of the tree open. Take out suckers,,and the shoots that are long and thin and are obviously not going to produce fruit, but just fill up the branches. Take out crossing branches and ones that are growing straight up or backwards into the tree. You can keep the tree as low or high as you would like. Mine are not very high, but spread way out to the sides from pruning the branches so they will grow out to the side.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 10:33PM
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marnielee7

Once again, how much of the terminal growth do I head back on Asian plums? Also, do I head back some of the lateral growth on the scaffolding branches? Form before fruit right? So are my scaffolding branches a little crowded? This tree is 4 yrs. old, Thanks

Here is a link that might be useful: Asian Plum

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 10:33PM
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mjmarco(Zone 6 Upstate NY)

IMHO, You have the right idea by opening the trees up. I can tell you it is way easier to maintain a tree that is open as they get taller. They will be easier to deal with as they get bigger and when you need to spray and pick. I have sometimes pruned late spring and summer just because my weather here. I have also pruned in the summer when my trees where getting bigger and leafed out you can tell what will compete. Keep at it you have the right thought process, fruit trees are resilient.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 8:52AM
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marnielee7

Thanks loneranger and mjmarco for your responses. Loneranger, I like the idea of not letting them grow high, I'd rather have a wide tree like yours. Also, thanks for the good tip to take out shoots that are long and thin. I guess that means I should certainly cut back the thin growth at the ends of the scaffolds then huh? And mjmarco, you gave to me just enough encouragement to get out there and start pruning away. Thanks for reminding me that fruit trees are resilient. So I guess I am going for open center when at all possible. What if I open center my apples (younger ones) and European plums? I know it's not common practice for those but I seen it done with apples on youtube. Also, would it be safe to prune off that guilded plum branch off now? Its approximately 2" in diameter. Thanks again, marnie

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 2:42AM
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mjmarco(Zone 6 Upstate NY)

I don't see anything wrong with opening any fruit tree up. Water sprouts will grow as your trees get bigger. I wished I weighted down and open all of mine up before they got to big. It helps so much with fungus and makes it so easy to spray when they are shorter and open....plus you can see when problems start a lot sooner. IMHO You can do anything wrong, if your not sure if you should remove a branch just wait till it leafs out and it will help you get a better picture of how it will grow...then cut it. If you have time check out a apple farm right now and see how much they cut back a full grow tree, sometimes it even surprise me...remember your trees right now are very young you have time.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 7:43AM
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charina(6b)

Re your apple, first video. Were it me, I'd take off the two lowest branches and the rabbit damaged one. The next three look well positioned to be the first scaffold layer for a modified central leader. Save those three. I don't think you need to tie them down as the crotch angles are very good. You can use a bench cut (a pruning cut with a bud facing outward) to promote further spreading and deflect the upturned tips of those three branches. Cut off about 1/4 to 1/3 of the branches, just past an outward facing bud in the direction you want them to continue growing. Remove the next three/four branches above that first set of scaffolds.

That's what I would do anyway.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 10:24PM
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charina(6b)

I don't have any suggestions regarding the apricots or asian pear, or asian plum. Re your european plum, it looks unbalanced and heavy on the left side. Not sure if that was really the case, or just the lack of wide camera angle. Either way, cut it off just below that spring. Balance it out and use bench cuts to get it to spread. Some of them really want to grow vertical and so it takes a lot of cutting to keep it from happening.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 10:32PM
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alan haigh

First, what is the apple rootstock? Second, if you prune by ratios you don't have to make a decision promptly on open center or central leader.

Your failure with the spreading of the E. plum was the result of choosing an oversized scaffold which should have been either stubbed to about half an inch (if you need a branch there and a smaller one doesn't exist) or removed.

Branches more than half the diameter of the trunk at point of attachment make poor scaffolds, unless you happen to have three of them appropriately positioned on the tree at once. Relative diameter equals relative access to the roots which provide water and nutrients. Spreading only takes you so far at reducing vigor.

Ideally, for a limited space, you should remove any branches more than a third the diameter of the trunk. This encourages dwarfing by achieving early fruiting. For the apple, you need do nothing else until the tree comes into bearing, unless it is the rare variety that needs to be opened to a lot of light even when very young. Such types will be fine to use this method for the first two years but then you need to begin choosing your permanent scaffolds.

Your variety has a natural spreading form, so you don't have to worry about spreading the branches as long as they are at about a 60 degree angle.

You don't need to do the fine pruning you are obsessing on until trees come into bearing. On the A. plum you are removing fruiting wood. The tree already has the right kind of branches to make a complete open center tree. Choose three of them and either remove the others or cut them back as they crowd your chosen 3. The second option requires some attention during the growing season.

You only need prune enough to steer the growth of your scaffolds in a fairly straight line. Otherwise, remove over sized branches and leave the trees alone until they've filled their allotted width and height. For an open center tree the height decision is made early and you can even choose your scaffolds now, cut the trunk at the highest one and eliminate the others now or later.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 5:54AM
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alan haigh

I should have mentioned that the branches immediately below the "modified leader" cut on the apples should be removed to assure the dominance of the leader.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 6:08AM
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eboone_gw

You do not need to cut off all of the little twigs toward the inside of your Asian and Euro plums - those little twigs will have flowers and fruit. Those with more length or thickness can be headed back to promote smaller flowering spurs, leaving a couple buds.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 2:12PM
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marnielee7

I'm glad to get more responses, thanks everyone. I just about finished pruning my asian pears, apples and apricots. Have yet to start my plums. Charina, are you saying that you would prune off those higher scaffolds on my apple because they are the same width as the lower scaffolds & should be a smaller diameter than those below it or is it because they are the wrong crotch angles? I would have never thought to prune those off! Thanks for your advice to cut off those lower branches, I'm gonna go back out there and do just that! On my euro plum, yes, its out of balance. If I cut right below the spring, there aren't any good choices for a new leader. Could I cut above the spring? It looks completely healed over and isn't gilded around the entire circumference of the branch, plus there's some good choices for new outward growth.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 1:15PM
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marnielee7

Eboone, I did leave those tiny twigs on the inside of the tree, thanks. Harvestman, thanks for your response also. I usually purchase fruit trees with a semi-dwarfing rootstock and ones that do well in heavy clay soils. What do you mean by pruning by ratios? Is that pruning off larger diameter scaffolds up top, like Charina may have been saying? Like I should have done on the euro plum, right? Your post seems to be explaining the "why" of Charina's post, right? Thanks for the great information. On my Asian plum are you saying I should cut off that first branch on the first scaffold, the one that is parallel with the other next to it? I wish I would have seen your post before I pruned my apricots! I chose to leave the two bottom branches & cut out the middle. Big mistake?! Yes, true, I am obsessing!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 2:19PM
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charina(6b)

Regarding the apple tree, my preference would be to remove the branches just above the lowest set of scaffolds as they are too close to your lowest scaffold level. Try to imagine what the tree will look like it as it grows and gets larger. With those branches in between the lowest level and the next set/leader it would be more of a bush than a tree. Too crowded. Plus as ha rvestman points out, removing them adds to the dominance of the leader.

And I would take harvestman's advice regarding the plum ahead of my advice. I was not intending to say cutting it off just below the spring but to cut off that branch with the spring at some point where it could be worked to form a new branch. That branch is problematic because of its size even without the spring. And with the spring there, all the more reason it should come off in its entirety. Other branches will grow to take its place so don't worry about losing wood.

Much like kids, train it young in the way it should go, and generally it will follow that later. If you worry too much about correcting it and cutting off bad growth, you will have a fight on your hands for a long time to come. Trying to be too careful and tender can be a problem with fruit trees. Don't be afraid to cut and form, keeping in mind the end shape/form you want. But don't sweat the little nuances of each individual.

This post was edited by charina on Tue, Mar 25, 14 at 15:18

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 3:09PM
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marnielee7

Charina, thanks for putting up w me. I am still confused... So, I just want to remove the scaffolds on the apple directly above the three I choose on the bottom, not all the way up the tree? And, its to give space to the lower scaffolds and has nothing to do with what Harvestman seems to be telling me; which is that the scaffolds up top should be cut back or even removed if they have a diameter the same as or nearly as big as the trunk. Am I getting this right now? Also, as far as a modified central leader goes, I think I pruned to an open vase up top... that's not good then? I need to choose one? I really appreciate your last paragraph. I'll keep that in mind as I'm pruning. Thanks

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 1:00PM
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marnielee7

Charina, thanks for putting up w me. I am still confused... So, I just want to remove the scaffolds on the apple directly above the three I choose on the bottom, not all the way up the tree? And, its to give space to the lower scaffolds and has nothing to do with what Harvestman seems to be telling me; which is that the scaffolds up top should be cut back or even removed if they have a diameter the same as or nearly as big as the trunk. Am I getting this right now? Also, as far as a modified central leader goes, I think I pruned to an open vase up top... that's not good then? I need to choose one? I really appreciate your last paragraph. I'll keep that in mind as I'm pruning. Thanks

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 1:10PM
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