Jon and I sort of went nuts pruning our trees this past week.
The trees around the yard have been getting badly overgrown over the last couple years, especially the apple, flowering crabs, and plum trees.
We started doing our research on how to properly prune trees and why it is so important. You’d think trees would be fine left to their own devices, after all they grow beautifully in the bush.
We found out that fruit trees and flowering crabs grow funny. They will literally strangle themselves if they are not trimmed back regularly. The strangulation stems from the suckers that grow on the trunk and branches.
The suckers (pictured below) have no real purpose. They will not produce fruit, take nutrients away from the branches that do produce fruit and cause problems if left alone. They block the sun and wind from getting between the branches of the tree. If the tree can’t breathe, they will rot and die.
The other reason you want to trim your fruit trees is because you need to train them to grow where you want them too. You want them to grow horizontally rather than vertically. This allows the tree to breathe and, if you are on the short side like I am, the fruit is easier to reach during the harvest.
We use the three-step method for pruning our fruit trees and flowering crabs. We’ve also used the method on cutting some branches off other species that were simply in the way of the lawn mower.
All you need is a hand-held pruning saw, for reachable branches, and an extended pruning saw for those higher branches (or a tall significant other). I really like this little saw. It is so easy to use and gets into tighter places. They are also relatively inexpensive. I’ve included links to the pruning saw and the extended pruning saw for your convenience.
The Three-Step Method
Step 1 – About 1-2 feet from the branch collar (the thicker piece of branch that attaches the branch to the trunk) you want to do an undercut about 1/3 of the way through the branch.
Step 2 – Your next cut will be an over cut about ½ - 1 inch further out the branch than your undercut . Once you cut through the branch it will break itself off. This does not cause damage to the tree when it breaks because you’ll be taking the branch off at the collar. Onto the next step.
Step 3 – You’ll be left with a 1-2 foot branch on the trunk. The importance of leaving that length is because when a branch breaks away from a trunk the tree has a hard time healing. Nice clean cuts will allow the tree to heal beautifully. Now cut the rest of the branch from the tree while holding the branch with one hand so it doesn’t break away. Make sure you leave the branch collar, it is important in the healing process because cavities or flesh cuts cause problems in healing. It also looks nicer.
· If you make a single cut from the top of the branch the weight of the limb will break the branch ripping the bark and making it difficult for the tree to heal properly.
· Branch collars are the thicker part of the branch against the trunk. It is important not to cut into the collar.
· Its nice to have a second person assisting by holding the branches still and holding the collar piece when making the final cut.
· Use a pair of hand held pruning shears for the smaller suckers.