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Pruning Your Plums: 3 Things You Should Know Before Trimming Fruit Trees

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Before you head outdoors with the pruners and start trimming your fruit trees, you should know the following 3 things:

How you expect your tree to grow

The first time you prune any new fruit tree, you must decide which type of growth habit you want it to have. There are 2 choices for a standard tree-shaped fruit tree in the home landscape.

"Open center" fruit trees are pruned to limit height by allowing several main limbs to circle the trunk and spread out the branches. This style of tree is easier to manage from the ground, and fruit is easier to harvest. More sun reaches the tree in this wider growth pattern.

"Central leader" trees use one main limb as the base for all lower branches. Trees grow taller and allow more sunlight and fruit growth up high. This pruning method works in tight landscaping spots and orchards where many trees are cultivated in a smaller space.

The correct time to prune

The general advice is to prune fruit trees in February or March. The original idea behind this is well-meaning since the dormancy of late winter allows you to see which branches to trim when there aren't a lot of leaves in the way.

However, don't prune when the temperature is sub-zero since this may damage trees. Since pruning often encourages leafing and budding, later frosts may damage this tender new growth. If you must wait until April to trim your trees, it's okay. Don't prune when it's rainy or snowy since dampness can spread diseases.

If you want more growth on trees, late winter and early spring pruning will send the tree into leafy overdrive. To curb growth on trees, trim in June or July which will help limit new branch formation.

How fruit on your tree forms

You should keep records each year of the dates when your trees flower and set fruit. This will give you a range of the best times to prune your trees.

Most trees won't set fruit until they're several years old, and you should know when your particular variety of fruit will begin producing. If your tree is taking longer to set fruit, talk to an arborist about feeding, spraying or pruning techniques that may help.

You must also understand whether fruit is set on one-year-old wood or on older wood. If you accidentally prune out the fruit-producing branches, you will never see any fruit. If you have heavily-fruiting branches, you may have to cull some fruit as it grows to have fewer, larger fruits.

A tree-trimming professional will help you get fruit trees off to the right start, and they will have other tips to help you grow your own delicious food in your region. Contact a business, such as Mead Tree & Turf Care Inc, for more information. 


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