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Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2014 7:26 pm
Posts: 1
Post Pruning
I live in Damascus at a 800 ft elevation and have am attempting to care for several old fruit trees, unknown varieties of apple, pear, plum and cherry. They have not been appropriately pruned for many years by previous owners. There are blossoms on the trees now and I am wondering if it is too late in the season to prune off the multitude of thin upshoots from branches? Thanks for your responses.

Thu Apr 10, 2014 7:46 pm

Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1188
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: Pruning
I’d say you can prune any time of the year. While dormant, (deciduous) fruit trees store their energy in their root system; in spring, it emerges to feed the growth above.

With a young tree, you don’t want to lose any of that stored energy, so it’s best to remove unnecessary material before Spring. An older tree usually has an abundance of stored energy. If pruned in the winter, it has stored enough energy to reinvigorate the ‘entire tree.’ So, if you prune (remove) a substantial portion of that tree, its stored energy will activate hundreds of ‘latent buds’ within the bark, sending up a multitude of ‘water shoots.’ Had you ‘Summer pruned,’ not as much energy would have been stored, thus fewer worthless shoots.

It’s easiest to prune when the leaves are off the tree, less damaging to developing fruit and foliage, and easier to see what needs remove. But – to keep the stored energy balanced within mature trees, it’s likely ideal to remove large suckers when they’re fully leafed out and ‘growing.’ Removing them while growing will cut down on the volume of energy stored over the winter; instead of energy returning to the roots, you will have removed it.

However… there’s a tricky balance to maintain, and if the trees are only marginally healthy, it may not be a good idea to do the bulk of your pruning during the growing season. Also, older trees often develop (especially in Oregon) a thick layer of moss on their scaffold (main) limbs. Removing it and exposing the bark beneath can cause sun scold that can seriously damage those limbs.

Rejuvenating a severely neglected orchard is a delicate and labor intensive process… The structure, damage, and vigor of each tree is a factor. I love to prune … but will often shake my head sideways while passing an old orchard... And, having dealt with the same, I speak from experience and not just theory.

I’ve read it suggested to ‘go slow,’ removing the largest ‘upright’ massive ‘sucker (trees within a tree) shoot’s’ one year, and continue at a pace both you and the tree can sustain. And though the work is daunting, the results can be magnificent, especially if the trees retain a productive base structure. The tricky part is making the ‘big cuts’ first, then thinning what’s left. And, making large cuts 8 to 10 feet up …then safely removing it from the tree can be very dangerous – or exciting!

A big question, and a big job. But it can be done, and any time would likely work.

Welcome to the HOS Forum :P

Temperate Orchard Convservancy:

Fri Apr 11, 2014 3:03 pm

Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 10:57 am
Posts: 1406
Location: Portland, OR
Post Re: Pruning
Remember to only prune stone fruit (peaches, cherries, plums, etc) when it is dry, preferably in the middle of a dry spell. Opening up the tree in the rain exposes it to many diseases. Not so crucial for pears and apples, although I think quince is more prune to disease than the other pome fruit.
John S

Sat Apr 12, 2014 9:27 pm
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