Pruning Fruit Trees for Beginners

Fruit trees are a wonderful way to grow food with little effort in your yard.  With a little care they can produce large harvests for decades.

The only real work I put into my fruit trees is a little pruning.  Pruning will help keep the tree healthy preventing damage and maximizing the yields.  In my opinion it also improves how the tree looks in my yard.

My general philosophy is to prune on an ongoing basis.  I hope to avoid large prunes all at once.

If your tree has not been pruned for a long time you may have to prune a little more aggressively before you can get yourself into a more regular schedule.  If you do have to prune more aggressively you may not get a heavy harvest the next season but over the course of following seasons you will more than make up for it.

The best time to prune is the spring before the buds break dormancy.  Pruning in the spring is said to be less hard on the tree.  The concept is that the tree will break dormancy in a growth phase and the pruning will encourage growth you wish to have.

Fall pruning is much more common in higher zones however here in Zone 3 I like to do a little light pruning in order to spread out the events a little bit and help prevent shocking my trees.  Generally I do my fall pruning right after I have harvested the crop.  Pruning at this time will allow the tree time to recover before fall.

The general rule of thumb is you do not wish to remove more than 20% of the tree while pruning.  On younger trees it is easy to get close so spreading the pruning out helps avoid that.

All I use for this is a sharp pare of pruning shears with longer handles.  As your tree gets larger you may need a saw.

Before every pruning and between trees I make sure to sterilize my equipment with a light bleach solution.  This will help prevent diseases from spreading.

I like to prune tree suckers or water sprouts in the fall.  They typically grow vertically from branches and take energy away from future fruiting and increase the stress on the main branch.

Before making each cut make sure to take a look twice in order to make sure you are making the best decision possible.  That said don’t worry if you make a mistake.  The tree will grow and you can correct it later.

When removing the water sprouts I cut as close as I can to the branch being careful not to damage the branch itself. This allows for quick healing.

Sealing the cut location is optional but will help reduce the chances of diseases getting into the wound. I seal mine with grafting wax but a wide variety of methods work perfectly well to seal it up including grafting tape and putty.

If you have sprouts coming up from the base of the tree or in the grass around the tree you can remove them any time of year.  They show up as a result of pruning and are simply a stress response.  Removing them will send that growth to the remainder of the tree.

Trees that are under 2-3 years old or have only been in the yard for under a year I typically avoid pruning.  Planting and establishment is stressful enough on them adding pruning may cause the tree to die back or worse.

The same principle applies to newly grafted scions.  This Manitoba apple was grafted this spring and has done wonderfully but pruning it may threaten the grafts success.

In the spring before the buds break I will do some more pruning catching branches that are reaching back across the center and topping out branches for easy access among other pruning objectives.

If you would like a more detailed video on pruning apple trees I will put a link at the end of the video.

For now I am going to keep the pruning fairly light but just giving me a bit of a head start on next spring.  Pruning will help improve your trees overall health production and aesthetics.  It is best to keep on top of pruning after your tree is established so it takes only a few minutes in the spring and fall to harvest large crops year after year.

If you would like to learn how you can graft other varieties to your fruit trees check out the link on screen now and make sure to subscribe so you can catch all future episodes.


How to Prune Fruit Bearing Trees

Fruit Tree Grafting for Beginners:


About Stephen

The Alberta Urban Garden Channel hopes to promote organic gardening that is simple, sustainable and does not have to cost a lot. We do this by investigating the Science behind gardening, methods, practices and products to make sure that you will have the best chance of successfully growing your own food at home.