Gardening & Living in Grand Style
Fruit tree basics learned over the years…
by Michael Johnson
Utah State University Extension Agent, Grand County
Feb 08, 2018 | 497 views | 0 0 comments | 51 51 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Another winter is slowly making its way toward spring and at this time we need to all think the words, “more moisture, more moisture, more moisture,” really hard.

​ I admit I say that to myself regularly in years like this, but we know this isn’t the first time we have had limited winter moisture and it’s not likely to be the last. Moisture issues aside it’s definitely time to be thinking about pruning your fruit trees.

​ Pruning fruit trees is best done after the worst of winter has passed, but before the trees bloom or leaf out, which means over the next month while they are dormant. Since cold weather is still possible, start with the hardiest such as apples, apricots, pears, and plums and finish up with peaches and nectarines. Prune fruit trees to develop a strong branch structure that will hold fruit without breaking any limbs. Don’t put boards under the limbs to hold them up or let limbs droop down, from which they don’t recover, since that’s not good for the tree now or into the future.

​ Fruit trees should not be managed like ornamental trees. Fruit trees provide edible fruit to enjoy and share with friends. Ornamental trees most often are used to provide shade for our yards and houses. If you want a large tree, grow an ornamental tree. A well-managed fruit tree will give you more fruit than you know what to do with — in a good fruit year that is — and if kept to a reasonable size, help you keep better control over insects and diseases while providing you with an easy harvest. Well-pruned fruit trees, with appropriate and timely thinning of fruit, will also lead to greater production and higher quality fruit than a larger poorly cared for tree. A well-developed fruit tree would ideally have the lowest scaffold limbs (main branches) starting about knee height and grow to no more than nine to ten feet.

​ For best pruning invest in quality pruning equipment, starting with a bypass hand pruner used to cut branches or twigs a half inch or smaller. Next would be a bypass lopper or long-handled pruning shears for limbs from one half to 1.5 inches or so. For large cuts, use a quality pruning saw. For the strongest branches, you want the limb angle from the trunk to be between 45 and 60 degrees, though not all limbs grow out perfectly from the trunk. To help you obtain the best angles you might need to spread a limb — for this you can use weights or notched limb spreaders — and if you need to narrow the angle use cotton string to tie a limb to other branches or the trunk. Depending on how well your tree is growing you will likely need to leave these for at least a season, and possibly up to three seasons, to give time for the limb to grow in place.

​ Finally, disease, especially cytospora, is common and it’s very important even during dormant winter pruning to clean your equipment between each use, if not between each cut. You can do this by spraying your pruning equipment with Lysol (yes, it works quite well) as you prune or put some rubbing alcohol in a little spray bottle.

For further information on the specifics of pruning there are some good bulletins on the websites of Utah State University, Colorado State University and others.​

​ Previous articles can be found on The Times-Independent website. If you have a topic you would like to know more about call the Utah State University-Extension Grand County office at 435-259-7558 or email mike.johnson@usu.edu.

​ Thought for the day: “It’s so dry the trees are bribing the dogs.” — Charles Martin




Copyright 2013 The Times-Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

report abuse...

Express yourself:

We're glad to give readers a forum to express their points of view on issues important to this community. That forum is the “Letters to the Editor.” Letters to the editor may be submitted directly to The Times-Independent through this link and will be published in the print edition of the newspaper. All letters must be the original work of the letter writer – form letters will not be accepted. All letters must include the actual first and last name of the letter writer, the writer’s address, city and state and telephone number. Anonymous letters will not be accepted.

Letters may not exceed 400 words in length, must be regarding issues of general interest to the community, and may not include personal attacks, offensive language, ethnic or racial slurs, or attacks on personal or religious beliefs. Letters should focus on a single issue. Letters that proselytize or focus on theological debates will not be published. During political campaigns, The Times-Independent will not publish letters supporting or opposing any local candidate. Thank you letters are generally not accepted for publication unless the letter has a public purpose. Thank you letters dealing with private matters that compliment or complain about a business or individual will not be published. Nor will letters listing the names of individuals and/or businesses that supported a cause or event. Thank you letters about good Samaritan acts will be considered at the discretion of the newspaper.