8 Steps to Pruning Fruit Trees

16 February 2018  
How to prune fruit trees. Overgrown revitalized through pruning. Steps to proper pruning, food and sprays. Free shipping when buying directly from the far.

Februay is the ideal month to prune and plant fruit trees and we are loading up on local favorites here at the garden center. The most consistant fruiter in the mountains Arizona are apples. I found this great chart that really simplifies the apple choices.

Most fruit trees grown in home gardens are spurring types. A spur is a short (3-5") branch where the apple tree flowers and sets fruit. Pruning encourages the tree to grow more of these fruiting spurs by removing competing suckers and unproductive wood. It's pretty easy to prune an overgrow tree if you follow these 8 steps in sequence. I hope you find this helpful.

Free shipping when buying directly from the farm and you pick your plants up at Watters Garden Center. These aren't tiny 2” plugs or tree whips like other sites. Shop directly from all 2500 acres and we will add your order to the next truck that delivers to Watters Garden Center. Here's the link to shop from the farm.

Step #1 Remove Any Wood that is Unproductive and Attracts Problems - Start your pruning by removing any dead, damaged or diseased branches. Dead wood will be dark or brittle, often with the bark falling away. Diseased wood is often a different color than the other branches. The branch here is damaged and the open wound is an invitation to insects and further disease. You can, and should, prune dead and injured wood at any time of the year.

Step #2 Pruning & Removing Suckers from Apple Tree Branches - We prune plants to encourage more growth, but not all growth is welcome.

Suckers -are branches growing from the base of the tree.

Whorls -are branches that grow from and encircle another branch.

Water sprouts -are thin branches that usually grow straight upright and rarely bear fruit.

Super 2 minute YouTube on suckers by University of Illinois Extension:

Each of these simply sap energy from the plant. Removing them early in pruning will also help you see the structure of your tree and make it easier to see where further cuts are necessary.

Step #3 - Pruning Low Branches - Get rid of any branches within about 4' of the ground. They will be too shaded to produce any apples and they'll just invite animals to nibble.

Step #4 -Prune Out Future Problems - Prune out any downward facing branches. They too will be shaded and won't be productive. Next focus on removing any branches that cross or rub against larger branches. As these grow, they will get thicker and heavier. Prune them now before they do damage to the branches you need in your scaffold.

Step #5 - Keeping Your Apple Tree Pruned to One Main Leader - Step back and view the tree again. It should have one main leader or central trunk.

Step #6 - Outward Facing Bud Photo - When pruning out an entire branch, you can cut back to the collar of the branch, slightly away from the trunk. Just follow the ring of the collar.

When partially pruning the branch, you'll want to try and prune to an outward facing bud. In the photo above, you can see that the outward bud is directed away from the neighboring branch. Cutting just above this bud will encourage it to sprout a new branch that will grow out, away from the other existing branch.

If you were to cut above the inward facing branch, you would be encouraging a new branch that would cross and/or shade the existing inner branch and would eventually have to be removed.

Step #7 Clearing the Clutter

Now you can focus on thinning interior branches so that sun light can reach all the fruits and each branch sits at a nice, strong angle of greater than 45 degrees from the leader. Be as ruthless as possible, without removing more than about 1/3 of the branches. Remove all spindly growth. Remember, all of this pruning is going to result in new growth, so the more you get rid of here, the less you'll have to deal with later.

Finally, make sure that upper branches are shorter than the lower branches. Your final result should look like a pyramid with well spaced horizonal branches. The old adage tells us a bird should be able to fly through your apple tree without its wings touching a branch.

It may look extreme when you've finished, but your tree will bear healthier fruit and be easier to harvest as a result of these efforts.

If you've read this far I have a free gift for you. I wrote a local fruit tree book that goes deep into fruit trees from pruning to planting. Here's the link to the free download:

The Complete Guide to Fruit Trees by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener.

Step #8 – Spray with Horticultural Oil and Fertilize with 'All Purpose Plant Food' 7-4-4. When the pruners and put away and the cleanup is complete it's time to spray the entire tree with Watters “Horticultural Oil”. This all natural oil coats remaining eggs that will bug your tree and prevent adults from attacking your fruits. Make sure the thouroughly spray the park, main branches and the base of the tree.

We have these products here at Watters Garden Center, but here's an Amazon link to have them delivered for those of you outside Arizona.

The last step is a good plant food. I've created the perfect food for local fruit names All Purpose Plant Food' 7-4-4. Spread liberally at the recommended rate under the entire drip like circling your tree. In fact, it's time to feed everything in the yard with this same local plant food. Plants are waking and hungry, this food gets them off to the right spring start.

Garden Class Sure to Make You a Better Gardener:

February 17 - Gardening for Newcomers. From zones to frost dates and everything inbetween.

February 24 – Fruit trees from Planting to Pruning a live demonstration

March 3 - Watters Raptor Birding Experience – bring the kids because we will are flying eagles, owls and falcons throught the greehouses. Lots of photo opportunities, but bring your own chair, this class is supper popular.

March 17 – Watters 56th Spring Open House – meet the Watters growers, talk directly to the professionals and experience many of this spring new plant introductions avaiable only here at Watters Gadren Center.

See all of Watters classes this spring.

Until next issue, I'll be helping locals with fruit trees here at at Watters Garden Center. 

Watters: Website | Facebook | YouTube | Instagram

2018 Spring Garden Classes


February 17: Gardening for Newcomers

Instructor: Doug Arthur and Michele Hyatt

New to northern Arizona or just new to gardening? This class is Gardening 101 for everyone hoping to turn a brown thumb green. Learn all the mountain secrets to local garden success from soil preparation and planting to watering and fertilizing. This is an information-packed class guaranteed to increase garden blooms and fruit this year. The first 10 students to bring $10 and a soil sample receives a pH soil test done on-site with advice on how to improve the garden. You'll know exactly what to do this year to make your garden the envy of the neighborhood! Free.

If you can't attend this class, watch the Livestream on Facebook. Like our Page to be notified when we go Live.

February 24: Fruit Trees from Planting to Pruning

Instructor: Ken Lain & Grant Tibbetts

Learn the insider's tips from the pros who know varieties, planting techniques, food, and more. We cover local success stories and best practices for healthy, happy fruit trees that produce your best harvest ever! Guest instructor and arborist Grant Tibbett from Jonny's Tree & Landscaping will be on hand to explain when and how to prune your trees to stimulate stronger, more vigorous growth and have a higher fruit yield. Dress for the weather and bring garden shoes, there is a working demonstration that includes a walk-through of the garden center after the class. Free.

If you can't attend this class, watch the Livestream on Facebook. Like our Page to be notified when we go Live.

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his web site at WattersGardenCenter.com or FB.com/WattersGardenCenter .

Ken Lain, the Mountain Gardener

Ken Lain is attracted to sunshine, beauty, happiness, success and health through gardening, and wishes to point the way to others. Throughout the week Ken can be found at Watters Garden Center located at 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd, Prescott, or contacted through his web site at www.wattersgardencenter.com

Website: www.wattersgardencenter.com