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December 2001


I attended a pruning demo prior to Christmas that reminded me of a set of rules that I had buried in my files. When I found them I noticed that it’s been four years since they were circulated.  So here they are again, dusted off, and ready for use. 


These “rules” were originally developed for pruning apples, BUT… if you’re growing fruit on a tree these rules will apply. As you read these rules think about the facts that they were developed from: 


The most productive blocks are ones that have a minimum of structure wood and a maximum of young fruiting wood.  They are also the ones that have a maximum amount of sunlight from the top to the bottom of the tree.  To achieve both of these goals you have to continually remove excess structure wood and cycle in new fruiting wood.




1), .  This removes the chances of a top heavy tree.  It forces you to balance the tree and eliminates the chance of leaving too many branches (structure wood) in the top because you pruned too much off the bottom of the tree.


2) .  Look for the “big” branch and cut it out.  Look at the tree from a distance before you start to determine which “big” branches need to be removed.

This rule applies both to branches originating from the central leader and side branches off of scaffold limbs.  This process removes dominating laterals, distributing vigor throughout the tree.  A tree with “distributed vigor” will naturally grow more fruiting wood.  On pome fruits use “stub” cuts which will produce soft re-growth and fruit buds.


3) to redirect energy and light through the tree.  With stone fruits it’s critical to remove these from inside the interior of the tree.  On pome fruits a stub cut will often produce weaker horizontal fruiting structures.


4)This rule will help keep the “fruiting wood” in your tree young.  Removing weak branches increases light penetration and thins off weaker spurs which saves on chemical or hand thinning later.  Weak spurs  or fruiting buds often bloom at a different timing, and persist with poor quality crop until removed.  Dormant pruning will invigorate the area and direct energy into production of higher quality buds that are better able to withstand spring frost.


5), even if they are below the 50% rule.  Excess branches “tax” the system and reduce light penetration.  Experience will tell you where the balance is that allows for production of maximum fruit numbers and size.


6)  Have an idea of how many boxes of fruit you want to harvest off of each acre.  Work that number backwards to determine how many fruit per tree you need, then prune towards that number.  Prune a few trees and count the fruiting sites left.  Following this rule will reduce your thinning bill and increase your fruit size.


All of us who farm have one of our most critical “inputs” delivered to us daily at no cost!

SUNLIGHT.  Sunlight is what drives the system.  It’s what gives you taste, size and color!  Following these rules will help you take full advantage of one of your greatest resources, the sun.


If you have questions about these rules, let me know and I’ll explain them further.  I’d be happy to demonstrate them on your place.  It’s a good time of year to plan for the coming season, if you would like to discuss herbicides, fertilization, or pest programs give me a call and I’ll stop by.



Wishing you a prosperous New Year!



Larry Traubel

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