I’m getting ready to prune over one hundred apple trees.  So, I thought I would share the way that I prune fruit trees. 

Pruning affects the tree’s future health and vitality.  I ask myself, "How will this year’s pruning decisions affect the tree in the coming year, and in the years ahead?"

Before the first pruning cut is made, I carefully observe what the tree itself may need.  By slowly examining the tree from all sides, I seek answers to specific questions.  For example, How has the direction of sunlight affected growth over the past year?  How have the prevailing winds altered branch structure?  How has soil nutrition influenced the length of individual shoots?  How many leaf and fruit buds are spaced along the branches?  Is there evidence of insect and disease damage?  In other words, I’m examining the tree like a doctor examines a patient. 

The first type of pruning cut is devoted to removing diseased branches, or branches that are causing damage to the protective bark of other branches.  Branches that rub against each other create wounds that allow the entrance of diseases and insects. 

The next type of pruning cut focuses on allowing sunlight to penetrate the center of the tree.  These pruning cuts also enhance air flow between the leaves and branches.  Sunlight and airflow enhance disease resistance and promotes fruit development. 

Lastly, there are pruning cuts devoted to fruit production.  The first concern Is to develop a strong, wide-angle branch structure to help support the weight of the fruit.  Pruning also stimulates the growth of fruit buds by controlling the age and length of fruiting branches.  I want to stimulate branch and bud renewal.

For me, pruning is a calm and thoughtful annual process.  Ultimately, as I prune each tree, I strive for a respectful and mutually beneficial conversation.  A healthy orchard in full bloom is our reward.