“Forks belong on your dinner table, not in your orchard,” said Jon Clements, UMass Extension Educator. He shared his witty rules for pruning fruit trees, especially apples and peaches at his fruit tree pruning demonstration for about 40 fruit tree growers at Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, RI.
For a Central Leader style orchard,“select trees with 4 to 5 branches or ‘feathers’ fairly high up the tree,” said Clements. For hi-density plantings on dwarf rootstocks, a sturdy trellis system with four wires will support the trees during their productive years. The Tall Spindle style orchard uses trees planted 3’ apart with 10’ to 12’ between rows. To secure branches to wires, use u-hooks like those from OESCO (oesco.com) or Peach Ridge Orchard Supply (peachridge.com). Using rubber bands or wires, tie young branches aiming slightly down to limit their vigor.
Clements said apple trees fruit on 2-year-old and older wood. He likes to prune apple trees each winter after January first, in complete dormancy. Clements said, “Growers don’t have to sanitize tools in the winter. If Fire Blight is present in the orchard during the growing season, then be sure to sanitize tools between cuts when pruning.” Clements recommended starting with the largest trees. Clements offer specific recommendations for pruning apple trees using the Central Leader style. Learn more here.