We get many calls from landowners asking for advice on how to care for their fruit trees. The best time to prune them is now (April). The fruit buds are beginning to swell here in Southern Ontario with the rising daily temperature highs and longer days.
Don’t be shy about cutting limbs off your trees. Just get out there and do it! If one limb looks way too heavy, causing an imbalance in the overall tree structure, then you should remove it. Don’t be afraid of hurting the tree. Make the cuts clean and precise and they will heal rapidly over time.
Do not tear the bark or make ragged cuts; use sharp tools carefully to ensure precision. Make sure the tools are clean and sharp. Pruning tools are found in hardware stores and garden supply shops.
Don’t buy the cheapest pruning tools you can find, spend a few dollars more to get better quality steel parts that will last many years; pruning is not a one-time fix. Pruning is an annual event. Most orchardists agree that its best practice to make all the large cuts earlier in the year, and then over the course of the summer the seemingly infinite vertical shoots can be removed. These are the smaller one and two year old branches that often tend to grow straight up in the air. You have all summer to get to those; for now, just focus on overall tree structure and health. Reduce the overall size to increase efficiency, encourage light penetration, and of course make it easier to harvest all those juicy apples that are ripe and ready to pick in the fall.
Take out any branches that look unhealthy or diseased. Remove any branches that are crossing over one another or otherwise competing with each other for light and space. Remove any that are going straight into the sky like a rocket. Remove or shorten any that appear to be too long, too fat, too heavy, or growing in a downward fashion.
If you are not sure, cut it anyway! Our motto is : ” When in doubt; cut it out!” Remember- pruning is like hair cutting – it will always grow back !