Fruit trees produce more fruit and have a more manageable shape when trained through pruning. Maintaining the tree shape is done by moderate pruning each dormant season. Pruning and maintenance pruning result in higher quality fruit and longer life for the tree. Pruning trains the tree's structure so it can hold heavy yields of fruit at the height of the harvest season.
Pruning is a necessary maintenance requirement for growing fruit trees and is a dwarfing process which reduces the size of the tree. Summer pruning has the biggest dwarfing effect. Pruning reduces some of the growing points on a tree and forces more vigorous growth on other points. Light pruning is recommended for fruit trees in the first three years.
Fruit trees are pruned to keep a manageable shape and to increase fruit production, while helping the tree develop a strong structure that will support heavy yields. Trees that are not pruned well have upright branch growth that sags and breaks under weight. Pruning the tree's canopy also opens it up to light, and sunlight is necessary for bud and fruit development. A fruit tree needs light to reach 12 to 18 inches into the canopy.
Summer pruning is more of a thinning than severe pruning. It should be done after July. It reduces the tree's growth severely and should be limited to only the most vigorous branches. Summer pruning first reduces the tree's root growth and then the whole tree. Winter pruning is an invigorating process for a fruit tree. The tree's energy is stored in the trunk during the dormant season so pruning does not reduce energy for growth.
Winter pruning removes all dead and diseased branches first. Thin the branches to allow space in the tree canopy for sunlight. Prune on the lateral line, removing branches that grow straight up or straight down. Do not remove branches unless there is a good reason for it in terms of future tree structure. Experts recommend pruning moderately. Excessive pruning can unbalance a tree and destroy its ability to carry the weight of the fruit at harvest.
Fruit trees that are pruned moderately and regularly produce better fruit and maintain health longer. Pruning cuts should be made with a sharp garden tool to prevent tearing the tree. Clean cuts reduce the possibility of disease and insect infection. Cuts should be flush with the adjacent branch without leaving a stub. When making horizontal cuts, make sure they are angled so water cannot collect in the wound. The tree will heal naturally without use of paint or wound dressing.