Whether you have had fruit trees for years, inherited a fruit tree on the property you just purchased, or are toying with the idea of planting one, owning a fruit tree can be fun. It is satisfying to be able to harvest food from your own yard and be part of the “eat local” movement so prevalent today.
“Can I plant a fruit tree to replace my ornamental tree?”
This is a question sometimes asked by clients deciding on what kind of replacement tree to plant. The answer is of course! You can treat any fruit tree as an ornamental tree, enjoy its beautiful blooms in spring, green foliage in summer, and colorful leaves in fall. However, you should be prepared to deal with the fruit, as it will attract wildlife (which can be a bonus depending on how you view it), break branches if allowed to overproduce, and drop fruit on the ground that will rot if not picked up. As long as the pros outweigh the cons in your mind, then yes, plant a fruit tree.
How important is it to prune my fruit tree?
Timing and method of fruit tree pruning can enhance the amount and quality of your crop, and will also create an open scaffold that is strong enough to bear all those beautiful fruits without breaking branches. Plus, it will open up the center of the tree to allow more sunlight into the interior and reduce the incidence of disease.
Can I prune my fruit tree myself?
Yes, you can! If you are ambitious and have the tools and the time, you can prune your fruit tree. And if you are not sure how, there are plenty of YouTube videos, books, and fruit tree pruning classes at the local nurseries to help you with the process. But if you would rather have someone else do the work, Traverso Tree Service can help you professionally prune your fruit tree.
When is the best time to prune my fruit tree?
You may not want to hear this but the best time to prune fruit trees is right when they are planted and then twice a year (once during the winter and in the summer) for the next three years. The goal is to establish a well-structured, low branching tree (so it is easier to harvest the fruit) where the roots are in balance with the canopy.
But my fruit tree is not young, so when is the best time to prune my mature tree?
This is the number one question we get from clients about their fruit trees. The best time is during the dormant season, after the tree has dropped all its leaves and fruit and before bud break in spring, which means that in Northern California, the best time is December to mid-February, depending on how warm a winter we have. The reason is that it is easier to see the structure of the tree and we can more easily identify buds when the tree is bare.
DO NOT PRUNE apricots or cherries in the winter
Cherries, apricots, and a few related species are particularly susceptible to fungal and bacterial canker diseases that are spread during rainy, wet weather, so it is recommended these trees be pruned in the summer during the dry summer season.
What about my lemon tree, when is the best time to prune it?
All citrus trees (lemon, orange, lime, or grapefruit) are frost tender, so the goal is to protect the tree in case temperatures drop below 32 degrees. You want to have a layer of foliage to help protect the inner structure of the tree from frost damage. If you prune your citrus tree in late fall you may remove that protective layer and make your tree more susceptible to damage in case we have a hard freeze. Therefore, it is recommended to prune citrus after all danger of frost is gone and before winter, so anytime between April and August.
What happens if I miss the dormant season?
It’s early March and your fruit tree is full of blossoms, did you blow it and miss the fruit tree pruning season? Can you still prune your fruit tree in April or May? Or is it better to wait until next year? Like so much of tree work, it depends. Having one of our certified arborists evaluate your fruit tree will help you decide what is your best option. They may recommend waiting until the following year or doing some light pruning to remove dead, damaged, heavy, or dying branches, even if it means pruning in April. However, you want to be careful and not overly stress your tree during this prime growing season, which would also put it at risk of sun scalding, disease, or pest infestations.
What about pruning in the summer?
Summer pruning has many advantages, such as keeping an over-exuberant young fruit tree in check. Young trees if left alone can sprout up to 30′, putting the fruit out of easy reach and expending unnecessary energy. Removing unwanted branches in summer redirects the tree’s energy into the branches that are desired, and hastens their growth.
I know I should prune in the dormant season but I forget and when I call Traverso Tree Service they are scheduling past the dormant season.
You are not alone. Because of the loyalty of our clients, we often book up many weeks in advance, making it difficult to schedule tree work, especially during the dormant season. However, we have created a solution. Our Annual Pruning Program is designed to help. By sending an email or calling our office, you can request to be enrolled in our Annual Pruning Program. Or you can go to our web page and fill out the form on our Annual Pruning page. Just tell us what month you want to have the tree work done and we will email you a reminder when we start scheduling work for that month. For example, if you want to prune your apple tree in December, we’ll send you a reminder email to get on our schedule once we start booking work that month (which could be as early as September!). That doesn’t automatically mean you are on the schedule, you need to respond with either an email or phone call and ask for a bid to have your fruit tree pruned. We can reserve you time in December until one of our arborists can provide you with a bid. You are under no obligation to have us prune your tree if you decide you want to skip a year.
Having a fruit tree can be fun with tangible rewards, but it does require some effort to enjoy it to its fullest. If you have any questions about your fruit trees or would like to divert some of that “fun effort” to our crews we would be happy to help you out! Just give us a call.