Growers often neglect the annual training and pruning of fruit trees. Without training and pruning, however, fruit trees will not develop proper shape and form. Properly trained and pruned trees will yield high quality fruit much earlier in their lives and live significantly longer.
A primary objective of training and pruning is to develop a strong tree framework that will support fruit production. Improperly trained fruit trees generally have very upright branch angles, which result in serious limb breakage under a heavy fruit load. This significantly reduces the productivity of the tree and may greatly reduce tree life. Another goal of annual training and pruning is to remove dead, diseased, or broken limbs.
Proper tree training also opens up the tree canopy to maximize light penetration. For most deciduous tree fruit, flower buds for the current season's crop are formed the previous summer. Light penetration is essential for flower bud development and optimal fruit set, flavor, and quality. Although a mature tree may be growing in full sun, a very dense canopy may not allow enough light to reach 12 to 18 inches inside the canopy. Opening the tree canopy also permits adequate air movement through the tree, which promotes rapid drying to minimize disease infection and allows thorough pesticide penetration. Additionally, a wellshaped fruit tree is aesthetically pleasing, whether in a landscaped yard, garden, or commercial orchard.
Summer pruning is an easy and convenient method of controlling the growth of backyard fruit trees. Some advocates of this kind of pruning recommend keeping fruit trees at a height of around 12 feet which allows for ease of care and harvesting. Pruning of rampant spring growth also allows light and air to reach lower branches. This improved air circulation may reduce disease, and additional light can help promote lower growing fruit.
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