When To Prune Fruit Trees
By: Raymond Fitzpatrick
One of the questions that I get this time of year is when do I prune my fruit trees and the answer that I always give is, it depends. It depends on the crop that we are talking about and the issue is that it’s hard to say that you need to prune this tree on this date. It depends on a little more than that. I often tell people that plants don’t have calendars; all they know is what the weather is outside. And as anyone who is reading this knows that in Georgia the seasons often change from week to week, in fact at the time of my writing this we just had one of warmest days we have had in weeks. But with all that said I would like to try and give you some guidelines on the ideal times to prune your fruit trees.
Peaches, Apples, Pears
Pruning of temperate fruit trees (Peaches, Apples, Pears) should be done during the winter dormant period in most cases. This period, generally between December and February, allows for some latitude. Pruning later in the dormant season is better in most seasons since trees are more susceptible to freeze damage after pruning, and pruning stimulates the growth of the trees. We really would like to do that in February if at all possible because it is an Ideal time for our normal weather patterns, once again the only thing normal about Georgia’s weather is that it changes.
Muscadines are truly a fruit for the south. They were discovered here by the early colonists and have been a favorite fruit of southerners since. Since muscadine fruit are borne on new shoots arising from last year’s growth, you should prune back the canes that grew the previous year, leaving about 3 inches of growth to form spurs. Prune in February or early March. Don’t be alarmed if the vines “bleed” at pruning cuts. Bleeding does not harm the vines.
Also done in the winter months, blueberries are a popular garden item that occasionally needs pruning to allow them to continue producing fruit. After establishment, rabbiteye blueberries in particular require little pruning until they reach about 4 to 6 feet in height. At this point, a cane renewal pruning program should be started. Remove one to three of the largest canes each winter at 0 to 24 inches from ground level or a total of about 20 percent of the canopy. Over a period of five years the bush will be totally renewed. New, more productive canes will sprout from the old canes and will sprout below ground level. In addition, excessively tall canes can be pruned back to 6 feet each winter. Last year’s late frost did play a role in the blueberry crops.
For more questions on pruning fruit trees please call the UGA Extension Office Franklin County.