Early Spring Stone Fruit Tree Pruning

1 Material
1 Hour

Back in January, I posted a tutorial on Dormant stone fruit tree pruning using my white peach tree as an example. Now, we're ready to finish the prune (almost).
The tree looked like this when we finished the first prune in January.  There was still a lot of winter to deal with.  A lot of twigs were going to freeze, etc.  Now the tree is budding and we can see what still needs to come off.
First, anything dead needs to go.
Wow!  Buds and new growth everywhere!  You may think it's a good thing, but the tree will not produce good sized fruit until we clean up this chaos.  Just remember:  too many buds and the tree's limited energy will have to go to too many fruit.  Fewer buds means larger, better fruit.
So, what needs to come off?  What are we looking for?  One example is this overcrowded branch with that bottom twig coming off at an acute angle.  Gotta go.  If this twig should bear fruit, that angle might not hold and the whole thing could rip off or be blown off.  The other problem is that it is rubbing on growth.  That's a no-no.
Also the 'V' shaped twigs on the upper right need to go two.  Either one or both.
These look really great to the untrained eye.  What could possibly be wrong?  The budding twigs are way too close together.  The budding twigs should be about 4 to 6 inches apart - like the two on the lower right.  Also, they shouldn't be directly across the branch from one another.  Staggered is what you want.  Also you don't want the end of the branch to form a 'Y'.  That's a recipe for breakage down the line.
This branch has the same problem as the previous one, except for the end which was pruned in January.  No "Y".
Here it is again with much better spacing. 

Don't worry if you feel like you are over pruning.  You aren't.  Unattended trees over-grow to account for pests, disease and breakage.  Your pruning actually makes the tree healthier and your yield better.

And don't expect that you will find all the twigs that need pruning on your first attempt.  I usually do an hour or so at a time for at least two days. 
Finally, remember to collect your twigs so they can go in the compost pile.  This can be a painful process if you've never pruned for fruit before.  The old saying "Less is more" is exactly what you want.  Fewer, correctly pruned budding twigs means more delicious fruit for your table later.

If you live in a colder climate and your tree hasn't budded yet, wait until that new growth tells you where to cut.  If you are south and in full flower and haven't pruned, do it now before the tree starts to set fruit. 

Also, if you see pests, don't wait to use your All Season Horticultural oil spray.  You'll be glad you did come summer!

Resources for this project:

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Have a question about this project?

1 question
  • Beatrice Tangeman
    on Apr 4, 2018

    Hi Jan, our nectarine tree is producing first fruit and much of it is now on the ground.

    I’m sure it goes without saying, I’ve made some rookie mistakes. I haven't pruned or sprayed. The fruit is small and the tree is at over ten feet 😧. I’m youtubing the pruning techniques, but do I really need to keep the tree short? I’m hoping to be able to share with our community as there is much need here. Would love to hear your thoughts about how to turn it around.


    • Beatrice Tangeman
      on Apr 5, 2018

      How can I keep from most of it winding up on the ground? Why are they so small and on the ground?

Join the conversation

  • Wendy
    on Mar 11, 2018

    Looking good!!

    • Jan Clark
      on Mar 12, 2018

      Thanks, and I'm still seeing stuff to prune! Looking forward to those white peaches. Best peaches in Texas.

  • Gail
    on Jun 9, 2020

    Definitely going to prune our apple tree has 5 different apples lost 1 branch had 6 different apples has never been pruned tk you for ur 𝙞𝙣𝙛𝙤

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