Cotton and peanuts crops have placed Seminole apart from a majority of the state from an agricultural stand point. Corn and soybeans and small grains can also be easily found across the county. This variety is not the norm across the state or country. Among the many crops we can produce here, fruit trees are a commodity we have. Many people in the community, myself included, have a strong interest in growing their own fruits. To support that interest, it is import to discuss the how, when and why of pruning these trees to have a successful crop.
When it comes down to “how” to prune fruit trees, many people can get discouraged or overwhelmed. Although this can be a daunting task, it doesn’t need to be difficult. There are two main ways prune your fruit trees, both of which are easy and effective. The first way is a “heading cut”. This only requires you to trim the tips of the branches, which stimulates lateral growth and strengthens branches. A “thinning cut” is the removal of branches near the base. This removes excessive vegetation and promotes air flow and light penetration. The branches that remain will strengthen and also allow for more permanent shaping of the tree to occur.
Just as important as “how” to prune is “when” to prune. Dormant pruning takes place in late winter or early spring to avoid being damaged by freezes. This is the appropriate time to remove limbs and branches that are considered excess. Pruning during this time invigorates spring growth by storing energy in the roots and trunk to be used in early growth. Summer pruning corrects newly produced shoots in a controlled manner. This pruning controls new growth so a desired shape can be achieved. Only small shoots and dead limbs should be removed at this time. After July, no pruning should occur to avoid winter damage.
So now that we understand the “how” and “when” to prune, its also important to understand the “why”. Why do we care about pruning in the first place? Well, if you have ever drove past a house with an untamed tree, you know that the aesthetic value of pruning is worth it alone. No one wants an old scraggly tree with dead sticks scattered all about the yard. Beyond that, good pruning helps strengthen the tree and open the canopy. An open canopy with good air flow and light will help trees carry more fruit to maturity and make your efforts all more worth it. Removing damaged, diseased and dead limbs helps protect the overall health of the tree. If you think pruning is aggravating, hauling off a dead tree is twice the pain and triple the money.
Quality fruit produced at home is more than obtainable for us here in Seminole County. With proper management and pruning, you can have a beautiful, fruitful tree you can be proud of. For additional information and guides, call me at the extension office. Be safe out there.