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How to Prune Apple Trees and Pear Trees

December 21, 2012 - GrowOrganic
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You’re ready to plant a fruit tree—but how do you decide on the best pruning and training system? We’ve got easy answers for you. The University of California says pruning and training your fruit tree will improve it five ways: *  Keep it a manageable size *  Grow larger fruit *  Ensure a yearly crop *  Let light and air into the lower branches *  Renew the vigor of the tree The three most popular shapes for fruit trees are Central Leader, Vase (or Open…
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Here at Peaceful Valley we love to help people find and grow fruit trees Our in-house videos and articles bring you research-based information about fruit trees—from choosing, planting and pruning, to pest control, and using the fruit harvest. To see all our fruit tree videos, click on the video box to watch them loop in a playlist:     Here’s a guide to the range of fruit tree educational resources we have for you, listed by topic:  .fruit-tree a:hover{text-decoration:underline;}…
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Video Transcript
Hi I'm Tricia an organic gardener I grow organically for a healthy and safe food supply, for a clean and sustainable environment, for an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

The fruit trees are dormant so its time to prune today I'm going to prune this apple tree using the central leader training system. There are three main fruit tree training systems; open vase is wide and short it takes up the most space but it's the best for fruits like peaches and nectarines, central leader is tall and thin and takes up the least space fruits like dwarf apples, pears, apples and Asian pears like this training system, modified central leader is halfway between the two and it's the best for persimmon, cherries and apricots. Anything that likes central leader likes modified central leader too. Central leader trees end up looking like a cone or like a Christmas tree they have one upright trunk and whirls of scaffold branches coming off the leader these trees may be taller but they fit better in narrow spaces central leader trees are not recommended for high wind areas or places where there's fire blight.

To start I'm going to pick the strongest upright shoot to be my leader and then I'm going to prune any competing shoots. Next I'm going to choose my permanent scaffold branches and then I'm going to label them with this ribbon the first scaffold branches should come off the tree from about eighteen to twenty four inches from the ground look for branches that are coming off the trunk at a forty five to sixty degree angle. Branches that have an angle to the trunk of less than forty five degrees are often weak and will break under the load of fruit or snow each of the scaffolding branches should be in a different quadrent of the tree and none should be right on top of the other and you want eight to ten inches between scaffolding branches. If you have a well-placed branch but it comes off the trunk at less than forty five degrees you can use a spreader to position it.

I've chosen my scaffolding branches so I'm going to prune the other branches with a thinning cut notice the collar that goes around the branch that's attached to the trunk you want to make your cut as close to the collars as possible without cutting into the collar you also don't want to cut to far out because then you'll leave a stub. Now I'm going to head back the scaffolding branches to a nice outward facing bud I'm gonna leave little spurs like this 'cause this likely will bear fruit. Head the tree back to about twenty inches from the highest scaffolding branch now that I've pruned the tree I'm going to position the branches with spreaders a simple way to spread little branches is with a clothes pin for bigger branches you can use a burlap sling with a brick or a rock. Make a small burlap sling to avoid girdling the branch attach, a piece of twine to your burlap sling, get the desired angle of spread and then tie it off to the brick or the rock. The end goal of a central leader tree is to have four tiers of four branches the top scaffolds should be shorter than the bottom and the tree should have a cone or pyramid shape. Pruning is easy if you plan ahead so take care of your trees train them and grow organic for life!

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Categories: Fruit Trees, Apple Trees, Pear Trees, Quince Trees, Pruning & Cutting Tools, Loppers, Pruners, Fruits & Berries, Edible Landscaping


Michael Says:
Dec 28th, 2014 at 11:49 am

Hi Patricia, thanks for the extremely helpful videos.
I have two questions:
1) I recently planted some nectarine trees.  I’m deciding between Vase shape or Modified Central Leader -I’m in Santa Barbara (Central California) which isn’t terribly far away from the Southwest but not technically there.  Would you lump that in with the Central Modified Leader suggested area or go with Vase shaped?

2) I recently planted some apple trees.  I plan on doing Central Modified Leader.  I think I’m supposed to head the newly planted apple trees to 32-36” at planting which obviously rules out finding 4 scaffolding branches starting at 18-24” separated by 8-10”...
Does that imply that for the trees I just planted, I would head them, and then need to wait a year before beginning scaffold selection? To what height should I head them at planting in your opinion?
Thanks so much.
Mike

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