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  • Writer's pictureRoman Jefferson

Pruning to Maximize Fruit Production

Pruning based on species

Now let's get into the specific techniques we can employ to maximize fruit on our fruit trees. For this area at least, there are three genus of fruit trees we see; Malus (apple) and Pyrus (pear) and Prunus (almonds, apricots, peaches, plums, cherries, or in other words, stone fruit).

Malus and Pyrus both set fruit on two year old wood (or third year wood) and older. Meaning that the growth increments set two years ago and older will have the fruit spurs. To encourage good scaffolding, limit the overall size, and “thin” ( ie. limit the amount of fruit spurs on the tree), you may want to prune last year’s growth by ⅔. This is a fairly aggressive way of pruning. I treat these genus with respect and try to stick to pruning that encourages sanitation, structure, and sunshine. Then I recommend breaking off excess fruit spurs by hand so the remaining fruit will become plump and juicy.

Fruit trees in the Prunus genus can fruit on last year’s growth (second year wood) or older growth depending on the species. Out of all the stone fruits, peaches require the most attention. Most peaches fruit on last year’s growth. This means each year it is a good idea to head back last year’s growth by half (or completely!) to limit the fruit buds on the tree. This also encourages new vegetative growth that will become fruit bearing the next year. Other stone fruit trees can be treated a little less vigorously. Again, think about sanitation, structure and sunshine.

To recap the blogs I’ve written about pruning, keep in mind…

  1. The “money in the bank” analogy. If the tree has no cash reserves because it is unhealthy then it will not produce good fruit. If it has lots of money, but also lots of fruit buds/spurs, then all the fruit will get only a little bit of money (like giving your inheritance to your 12 grandchildren).

  2. Think about what’s best for the tree. Set the tree up with good structure so it won’t break and it can provide fruit that’s easy to pick.

  3. Think about getting adequate sun to all the fruit so they ripen beautifully.

  4. And finally, prune using best practices and during an appropriate time of year to limit disease.

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