Let’s begin with the advantages of pruning;
- Enhances plant health
- Provides pest control and insect management
- Plant growth is stimulated
- Enhances the appearance of plants
- Helps maintain landscapes and train plants
The best way to take care of your fruit trees is to prune them regularly.
Pruning is most effective when done after harvest, not during the winter, since it is easier to differentiate between fruiting and non-fruiting wood during harvest. In winter, you can prune out any tangled branches or suckers that weren’t pruned earlier.
Pruning can be done in four ways;
- An extreme form of pruning, it is often used on parts that are too old, unattractive, or problematic. Roses are pruned in this method as it aims to revitalise the plant and encourage the formation of new growth.
- Tree topping removes all growth and branches from the tree and only leaves the trunk. In order to create a trellis or an espalier, this method is applied to young trees.
- The lower branches are removed in this method in order to clear pathways for pedestrians and vehicles.
- This method reduces the size, height and even the spread of the plant. Sometimes this method can help to assist the structural integrity and form of the plant.
Needless to say, when pruning you have to make sure you have the correct tools. It is very harmful for your plants if you hack your fruit trees with blunt incorrect tools.
Where should I start and what should I prune?
If you think about it, it is quite simple, you want the dead parts and branches to be removed. So start there, and cut off all the dead or even severely diseased branches. Don’t worry about the growth of the tree. If you cut it off neatly and correctly you will see new shoots forming very soon.
You also want the sun to be able to get to all the branches so look at how the plant is growing. Remove the branches which are not growing in the desired direction like towards the centre. Sprouts developing at the base of the trunk you also want to remove as this will eventually take more nutrients from the plant.
Branches and twigs that cross each other and may rub on each other can be removed. When making the cut it should be done just beyond the branch collar and bark ridge.
Another important part to take note of is the suckers on certain plants, like grapes, bananas, granadillas and even on pomegranates. The suckers are only the tree’s attempt to grow more branches. Normally the branches go up with another branch growing to the side. In some cases a new shoot appears in between these two branches which is called the sucker. In order to keep the plant growing the desired way, you should remove the suckers regularly.
Pomegranates for instance are vigorous growing trees and if left unpruned they can grow quite dense and crowded with lots of old, unproductive wood. They also sucker readily, producing many shoots from the base of the stem which rob the main tree of vigour. If left unpruned, the suckers will grow to produce more main trunks, resulting in a multi trunk tree.
Pomegranates fruit on short shoots near the ends of branches, which remain productive for 3-4 years. If the ends of all the branches are pruned off, no fruit will be produced for the year.
So take the time and look at your fruit trees. As painful as it may seem to cut off all those branches, it is much more beneficial not only to the plant but also to you, as new shoots will provide more fruit.
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