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Garden Article March 14, 2020

It won’t be long before the buds on the fruit trees start to swell.  This means it is time to start pruning.  Late winter and early spring are the best times to prune fruit trees because you can easily see where to cut.

The first thing is to have a good set of pruning shears, loppers and if doing rejuvenated pruning a curved pruning saw or a chain saw.  When making pruning cuts back to a main branch do not leave a stub but do leave the branch collar. The branch collar is the raised area that surrounds the base of every branch. It is easily discernable. This is where tree growth changes from trunk to branch. The branch collar is where trees produce the protective callus.  When a limb is cut, the tree seals off the area with a dry covering called a callus. The callus is generated in the branch collar and slowly works its way toward the center of the cut. If the branch collar is damaged, the tree cannot seal the area off properly. Often, this is how moisture enters a tree, leading to rot and decay and, potentially, the death of a tree.

When heading back branches cut quarter inch above a lateral bud, sloping down and away from the bud. Avoid cutting too close, or steep, or the bud may die.

Start the pruning process by removing dead, broken, diseased or insect riddled branches. Now remove any branches growing from the base of the tree.  These are called suckers and are actually growing from the tree’s rootstock, not from the fruiting part of the tree.  On the tree remove any branches growing straight upward, these are water sprouts and are not fruitful.

Now starts the process of thinning out the tree to let in more light, and air circulation which will lessen the chances for insects and diseases and aids in the increase of fruit production.  Remove any branches that are crossing over or rubbing against one another. Then remove any branches that are growing downward toward the center of the tree.

Once this is accomplished, stand back and see if you missed any branches that should be removed.  The goal now is to have evenly spaced branches throughout the tree.  Remove any branches that may be competing for space with other branches. The goal is to have six to twelve inches of air space around every branch.

The final step is to prune back the outer most branches so the branches become shorter and thicker as they grow.  This will help prevent these branches from snapping under the weight of the fruit plus it will help activate growth lower in the canopy making for smaller and fruitful trees. What you are doing here is removing twenty to thirty percent of last year’s growth.   Last year’s growth can be distinguished from two year old growth by the wrinkly ring of bark encircling each branch.  Depending on the vigor of last year’s growth this may be anywhere from two inches to four feet back from the tip of the branch.  Prune each branch back to a quarter inch above a bud that faces the direction you want the branch to grow.

Once trees are pruned they should be fertilized.  Apply three to four cups of Sustane Organic Fertilizer per tree. The best way to apply is to make four or more holes about three feet from the trunk with a pipe and fill these holes with the recommended amount of Sustane fertilizer.  The reason for the holes is to get the fertilizer accessible to the roots as quickly as possible.  Sustane fertilizer won’t burn the roots so there is no fear in harming the tree.

If you have any fruit trees that haven’t been pruned for years then let this be the year to rejunivate them.  When doing rejunivating two thirds of the tree shoud be on the ground when finished. You may or may not get fruit this year but by maintaining good pruning practices you should be rewarded for many years to come.

Garden Tip: Once trees are pruned and fertilized then spray them with a dormant oil spray to kill any overwintering insect eggs on the tree.  Spray the entire tree, getting the spray into all the nooks and crannies of the bark. An oil spray will give you a headstart on controlling the insects that attack fruit trees if applied properly.

Dave Vargo is the owner of Arnold Feed & Garden Ctr (724-335-1821) and Kiski Plaza Garden Ctr. (724-845-8201) Visit their web site at www.kiskigardencenter.com Email questions to dvargokiski@comcast.net all products mentioned in this article are available at either garden center



Dave Vargo is the owner of and Kiski Plaza Garden Ctr. (724-845-8201) Visit their web site at www.kiskigardencenter.com Email questions to dvargokiski@comcast.net all products mentioned in this article are available at the  garden center.