Fruit Tree Pruning

Jon Clements, UMass Extension on pruning apple trees

Jon Clements of UMass Extension pruning apple trees

“Forks belong on your dinner table, not in your orchard,” said Jon Clements, UMass Extension Educator. He shared his witty rules for pruning apple and peache tree at a pruning demonstration at Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, RI.

For a Central Leader-style orchard,“select trees with 4 to 5 branches or ‘feathers’ fairly high up the tree,” said Clements. For hi-density plantings on dwarf rootstocks, a sturdy system with four wires will support the trees during their productive years. The Tall Spindle-style orchard uses trees planted 3’ apart with 10’ to 12’ between rows. 

Apple trees fruit on 2-year old and older wood. He likes to prune apple trees each winter in complete dormancy. Clements said, “Growers don’t have to sanitize tools in the winter. If Fire Blight is present in the orchard during the growing season, then be sure to sanitize tools between cuts when pruning.” Clements recommended starting with the largest trees. Clements offered specific recommendations for pruning apple trees using the Central Leader style here.

Peaches fruit on new wood. Using clean tools, prune blooming peach trees in warm, dry weather to speed healing. The later you finish pruning, the smaller the fruit will be as energy went into growing those shoots. “Shade is the enemy for peaches and leads to weak wood,” said Clements. Reduce shade at the top to keep the lower wood strong. See Clements’ specific recommendations for pruning peach trees here.