Fruit tree training is an essential part of growing a healthy tree that produces maximum yield. Not only does the training of the tree help to develop the form and shape, it provides improved air circulation and healthy cell development. Fruit trees that are properly trained will enjoy a longer life span with a high yield of quality fruit.
Initiate the training process as soon as the young fruit tree is well established. Begin the training process in the early spring, just before the tree’s growing season begins. Develop a straight standing tree by ensuring the central leader rests in an upright position. Straighten bent or misdirected central leaders by tying the tree to a stake. Secure the trunk firmly to the stake with enough slack to allow for growth.
Scaffold the branches of the fruit tree to promote a balanced weight distribution for future fruit. Trim the branches so that they rest 6 inches apart at balanced intervals around the tree. Use sharp sterile pruning shears to complete this process. Trim the branches away at an angle to promote rapid healing.
Develop strong crotch angles for the fruit tree during its first year. Inspect the lower lying branches of the tree to ensure that the branches have good crotch angles. Promote crotch angles that rest between 45 and 90 degrees using clothes pins or toothpicks to spread the angle. Position the branch spreader at the trunk of the tree, and attach it to the branch to promote the desired angle. Be careful not to break or snap the branch with an excessive angle. Leave the spreaders in place during the growing season.
Promote an open center to increase air circulation and light penetration throughout the entire tree. Thin the branches and stems within the tree that overcrowd primary branches. Use sterile pruning shears to cut the unwanted branches back to the leader using an angular cut. Pinch-away new growth inside the canopy to reduce excessive growth.
Head the tree during its second and subsequent years. Complete heading cuts on the highest branches to control the tree’s size and develop branch strength and rigidity. Trim the leader approximately 30 inches above the highest scaffold. Head back unbranched lateral branches about a quarter of the branch's length to promote side branching.
Promote vigorous growth and quality fruit production by thinning the tree’s fruit. Hand pick excessive fruit from the tree before it is completely developed. Reduce the fruit to one piece per cluster. Ensure that the stem is removed along with the fruit to redirect the tree’s energy to the remaining fruit. Remove any dead or dying fruit, foliage, stems and branches as they appear.