A peachy job of trimming yields fruitful harvest
Fruit trees, blueberry bushes and grape vines all require annual pruning, and late February is the ideal time to prune.
Home gardeners typically don’t have a huge number of fruit crops, so waiting until most of winter has passed before pruning is fairly easy. Pruning fruit crops not only maintains size but increases production. Unpruned fruit trees may produce more fruit, but the size and the quality will be reduced, and you risk limb breakage. Unpruned grape vines and blueberry bushes can result in less fruit production and unevenness in ripening.
There are different ways that fruit crops can be pruned, but this table gives most traditional methods.
|Apples and pears
|Central leader pruning; center main branch is tallest, and lateral branches are at least 6 inches shorter. Thin excessive branches to ensure good air circulation and light penetration. Maintain manageable height.
|Peaches and nectarines
|Open center pruning (like an upside-down umbrella). Leaving center open allows better air flow, which helps reduce diseases. Maintain height. Remove any branches that are crossing over each other.
|Either central leader or open center pruning works fine.
|Table and wine grapes
|Grapes should be grown on a trellis with a main trunk and either two arms (cordons) or four.
When pruning table and wine grapes, we count buds on arms that fan out from the main trunk. Older, well-established and vigorous plants can have 60 buds left on them, while young plants may have only 10 total buds remaining after pruning. Each bud can produce one or two clusters of grapes. If you leave too many buds, the plant may not be able to support them all, and resulting grapes may ripen one grape at a time.
|Best grown on a trellis with a main trunk and either two arms (cordons) or four. Muscadines produce fruit on spurs — short, stubby growths on the arm of the grapevine. Prune each arm to a length of 2 to 3 feet in each direction, then shorten spur growth along the cane. When finished, it will look pretty bare, but each spur should contain three to four buds that produce fruit.
|Blueberries are cane-producing plants, with multiple canes (stems) coming from the soil line.
Do some top pruning to limit height, but the main pruning is thinning cuts at the base as plants age. You eventually want an even number of 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-year-old canes. Older woody stalks are not