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When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

Posted by sleone29 6b-South Jersey (My Page) on
Thu, Jan 16, 14 at 8:42

I have dwarf apple, pear, peach, plum, apricot, and cherry trees. I planted them in March of 2012 and pruned at knee height(most were already knee height). In 2013 I pruned in January, most trees are over 6' already. Is January too early? Can I prune them all around the same time? I believe my last frost date is April 15th. Just would like to know the optimum time for winter pruning.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

Ask your county agriculture extension office, or look in a gardening book aimed at your area.

It varies with the species of tree, and also with what the purpose of the pruning is.

You prune differently for shaping versus fruit production enhancement. And the age/size of the tree also matters.


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

In south Jersey you can prune any time. For stone fruits later is better to avoid canker. I usually do stone fruits last for that reason, but I have done some earlier and not had any problems.

Scott


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

Vigorous peach trees don't seem to me to be all that susceptible to canker. I only get it on older, and/or slower growing trees. If trees aren't vigorous it might be worth waiting until about when they are in bloom.


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

I'm in 6a and I plan to prune mine about March 15th My last frost is about May 1st. Wait for the harsh winter to be over. Probably about March 1st for you. Also dormant spray them after pruning. I like to make sure that any fungal spores are treated before they break bud. Plus you opened up the tree to infection so to me it makes sense to do a fungal spraying at this time. Make sure temps are above freezing when you spray. Read directions, some sprays may need a later application depending on the products you use. If so i would wait to prune until you can spray.


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

Drew, what fungus are you afraid of as a result of pruning? The Trees are pretty capable of protecting pruning wounds from most wood eating fungus. Fungicide applied by fruit care takers is mostly about protecting leaves and fruit.

When wood attacking fungus is a problem, such as with canker, the trick isn't fungicide but for the tree to be actively growing. Peaches heal faster when pruned in spring, apparently cherries suffer less when pruned in August.

I prune fruit trees on about 7 months of the year.


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

"Drew, what fungus are you afraid of as a result of pruning?"

Well it's the cherries, MSU says if you prune them, you should put copper on them. And yes August is better but sometimes a cherry tree say on gisela, it may have too many terminal buds and not enough leaf to support the buds. They should be trimmed back in the spring or late winter. You may be able to do this in August which is the very best time for cherries.
Also copper can be used for peach leaf curl at this time. I figure you're out there pruning might as well spray them too. MSU suggests once after leaf fall, and once before bud break for peaches. In the west they suggest three sprays.
I actually will be using another product for PLC this year, but copper is a must for my cherries when pruning.
MSU has some radical approaches. For example on cherries they suggest if canker is a problem to leave prunning stubs. I guess the idea is to keep the canker away from the trunk if it becomes infected. Not sure really?
One link about the copper is given, but they have multiple documents on cherry pruning.
It won't hurt to spray your trees at this time. Yes, they will need more sprays. Your approach is minimal, mine is not.
I trust MSU, so I'm going to do what they say.
I figure if you disagree you would respond and sleone can decide how to proceed. Some universities give bad advice, but I don't think it is the case here.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pruning cherries on gisela


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

Are you doing more then just height control with your pruning? I am looking at my trees now for late Feb pruning. To me it is about each branches development and the trees future shape, as well as this years production. I also tie branches to steer them. My newer trees look great. My older not so much, but I am going back and fixing that now. My early pruning info came from google searches and that info was all about the same, poor. I spend a year or so reading this forum, both current and old to put together my understanding of pruning.


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

I am discovering in this thread that there is more 'give and take' in times to prune apples and stonefruit. Every Feb. like clock-work, I've been going out into my small orchard and pruning all of my trees, then spraying my peaches and plums with copper. Not only have I had peach leaf curl and do not want ever again, my Italian Plum has been prone to Canker (as has one Peach), The copper spray at this point seems to be working just fine. I really had no idea I could have been pruning at any time. What a relief. I like keeping to a sched. as it just helps my plan for time in the orchard. Mrs. G


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

I would say you can't prune any time. Pruning during a peroid of rain is not a good idea. Pruning late in the year also is not good. Plants should be hardening off for winter but you just stimulated them to grow.


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

I've never worried about canker on cherries and often have aggressively pruned them during dormancy. I suspect it may be a larger problem in commercial production- either that or it's not such a problem in my general region, which seems less likely.

Pruning after terminal bud set in mid summer does not stimulate new growth, in my experience, and espaliers have traditionally been pruned at this time for centuries. I prune apples every working day from July well into Sept so I have less to do in winter when I'm pruning every single weekday as well.

I've never really suffered consequences of pruning at a "wrong time" although when I started in all this I followed the literature and was very cautious. It was the sanguine attitude of commercial growers who would prune most any time that gave me the confidence to follow the old saying, "best time to prune is when the pruners are sharp".


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

"I've never worried about canker on cherries "

That must be nice I have had it twice already. And I only have 3 trees.
One tree had to be removed it was bad, why they suggest stumping here. I prefer to follow MSU's advice. You have no experience in my area. They do. If you read the bulletin they not only tell you to spray after pruning, they tell you to spray BEFORE too! And I do. This has worked really well.
But I appreciate your advice, it is interesting, but I prefer to error on the side of caution. If others want to ignore canker infection possibility, that is their prerogative. As general advice, I think it is rather poor advice. My trees are on Russell Island, and it is super moist there. Potato chips last one day there before they have no crunch. I have been having a hard time growing anything there. But slowly I have been finding ways. And I do get a decent cherry crop despite the worst possible conditions. I have learned a lot. I have certainly learned canker is alive and well in my area.

This post was edited by Drew51 on Fri, Jan 17, 14 at 23:10


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

Drew, I expressed the difference in location and it is not really helpful to begin grading my advice as good or poor- I am only communicating my experience and I qualified it as such. You tend to make broad general statements, I post a contradiction and then you modify and specify- that is the point of discussion- it can lead to clarification.

In this case you initially recommended your approach without specifying that it was based on an issue with a single species. I think this clarification is helpful.

If you rely entirely on the advice of people whose information is acquired in the arena of commercial fruit production you may never learn the difference of what is required to grow a small stand of fruit trees compared to growing in multiple acres of monoculture.

I did not learn practical home orchard care by relying on Cornell. Their experts can offer advice when a specific issue occurs but they aren't very helpful if you want to pursue a low spray regimen to produce sound but not necessarily pristine fruit. You sometimes have to risk your crop or even your trees to learn what you need on any given site.

If I erred on the side of caution as a general rule I would wind up spraying all the orchards I manage twice as often as necessary. If I followed Cornell's advice on when to prune, I'd be able to manage a fraction of the orchards that I do now and I'd have to make my living doing something else.


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

I am doing apples and pears now - quite heavy thinning and lopping, especially older neglected orchards - but I also do summer pruning to stimulate spur formation....but will be leaving the cherries, plums, gages etc after the summer cropping. Have done this for 20 years - works for me.


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

'but will be leaving the cherries, plums, gages etc after the summer cropping. Have done this for 20 years - works for me.'

That is really good advice, and I do now too, but when I first started my cherries, I was new to fruit trees. I didn't know better and a couple trees got infected with canker.
One responded well, the other the infection went to the main trunk, and I lopped it off, the tree leafed out well, but then suddenly died and had to be removed.
I have 2 places 35 miles apart and the conditions could not be more different. Here in the city away from the water, and the old growth forest, it's dry. Easier to manage my trees here. Still last year was a wet spring and I saw a few fungal infections on strawberries, cucumbers, and on a magnolia tree. I removed the tree. I have found some products I will be trying this year to eliminate any infections. Including anti-fungal drench before transplanting, and use of beneficial fungi and bacteria, plus trace minerals to establish vegetables as early as possible. They now have anti-fungal bacterial products, pretty cool! Not for trees, well not sure? Actinovate is the product. I will use more traditional fungicides too. At my cottage it is so wet, all precautions one can do make sense there. I always will try new products too. When using fungi and bacteria it is best to buy directly from the manufacturer as some of the products have a short shelf life and you could be putting on dead spores. Some are excellent! We know about mycorrhizae fungi, one product contains every species you would need for vegetables. It has 9 Endomycorrhizal fungi, 7 Ectomycorrhizal fungi, 2 Trichoderma fungi and 19 beneficial bacteria.
I really like this product when growing stuff in containers as you are putting plants in pretty much a sterile medium. This is a jump start. Works great for containerized tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. Sorry off subject some, just related to using biologicals for fungal defense.
,

Here is a link that might be useful: Mycogrow

This post was edited by Drew51 on Sat, Jan 18, 14 at 8:45


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

The advice not to prune stone fruit in winter is meant to reduce the possibility of silver leaf. Do you get that in the States?


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

"The advice not to prune stone fruit in winter is meant to reduce the possibility of silver leaf. Do you get that in the States?"

I'm not familiar with it? But conditions are wet here in late winter, and MSU a local University advocates late summer pruning for cherries to decrease chance of bacterial or fungal infections. MSU suggests to prune in august. Cherries are our states life blood. it is a major crop here, we grow the most tart cherries of any state, or country for that matter. It is super important here. Although I happen to be talking about sweet cherries. What i like about MSU is they have extensive information not only for the commercial market, but for home growers too. They have developed many cultivars for both markets. MSU has developed more blueberry plants than anything, but recently 2 tart cherry cultivars were released. I think the cultivars are for both markets, you can purchase them at Grandpa's nursery which is located in Michigan. They are very much like Balaton.

Here's some info on what we are facing here from MSU. In 2012 many orchards got hit, and so did I. A major portion of our commerical fruit trees were taken out in 2012.

Here is a link that might be useful: Managing bacterial canker in sweet cherries: What are the options?

This post was edited by Drew51 on Sat, Jan 18, 14 at 10:38


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

  • Posted by olpea zone 6 KS (My Page) on
    Sat, Jan 18, 14 at 10:20

Just a clarification for the thread. My understanding is sweet cherries are much more prone to canker than pie cherries. I've seen lots of different pie cherry trees in my locale and have rarely seen canker. Of my own trees, out of 4 varieties, I've only seen canker on one older tree.

Because canker isn't generally an issue on pie cherries, I prefer to prune them in the dormant season. It's the only fruit tree type I don't summer prune. The reason, pie cherries are prone to get leaf spot here. They want to defoliate in late summer anyway (which weakens the tree). I assume cutting away summer foliage (via pruning) would add to the problem.

Everything else I try to prune when I think it needs it (i.e. prune in summer when the fruit needs more sun, prune in winter to thin wood).


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

Thanks for the info on pie cherries! I have been trying to grow some, but it seems fruitless (pun intended) at my cottage. I have 4 of them, but don't expect any to survive. The conditions are just unfavorable. It's a bummer! Yeah I tend to ramble, back and forth, sorry about that! The distinction between pie cherries and sweet cherries is beginning to blur with so many sweeter pie cherries being developed. They're hybrids between species, so care of these might be different? The Romance series having Mongolian lineage with traditional pie cherry lineage, Care of these is still kinda unknown. More like Bush cherries I guess? The Hungary pie cherries though are just very different pie cherries, but still the same species, not mixed with other species. Best to treat them like regular pie cherries, as that is what they are. I want to try them once I move.
Olpea thanks for you input it is always a pleasure to learn from you. You give advice in a humble respectful manner that does not go unnoticed. I wish I would have had it years ago when I was learning via the school of hard knocks!

We have had severe infections here in pie cherries too, it can be a problem. I would not rule out canker in your trees, leaf spot, defoliation can be symptoms.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bacterial canker in MI sour cherries

This post was edited by Drew51 on Sat, Jan 18, 14 at 11:15


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

  • Posted by olpea zone 6 KS (My Page) on
    Sat, Jan 18, 14 at 11:09

Thanks Drew. There are so many nice people on this forum (you and others). For the record, I like some tangents on this forum (adds a little spice to the conversation).

I was really excited about the Romance cherries and planned to put in a couple rows, but SWD checked me. I'm afraid of what they would do to the fruit in a larger planting.


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

I updated my last post a little, you may want to look at it again.
"I was really excited about the Romance cherries and planned to put in a couple rows, but SWD checked me"

Yes, I'm worried about that too. I just ate some of my raspberries with oatmeal, frozen from the fall harvest, and man they were so good, with oatmeal and nuts. The taste was out of this world compared to store bought! Man, I'm going to miss them if SWD hits me!
I was thinking about nut trees if SWD becomes a problem, which again going on a tangent, I found a 2nd nursery with shag bark hickories for sale. I'll post info if still looking.
Have you seen the new almond cultivars that are true soft shelled almonds? Not peach-almond hybrids. I was thinking of growing some of them. Rated to zone 5. One Green World has them! That's an awesome nursery btw!


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

Drew, when I suggested controlling cherry canker was related to pruning and not much to fungicide I really didn't know quite what I was talking about- as I mentioned, canker has yet to be an issue on trees I manage here, but I had a vague recollection of it not being a spray controllable issue.

By coincidence only, the University of Oregon seems to agree with my recollection. Not fans of copper for this affliction- that's for sure. Better make sure that's the right approach.

There is very detailed info here.

Here is a link that might be useful: controlling canker in cherries


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

The Oregon document is from 2010 and the MSU/ Cornell reference is from July 2012. Oregon may have a different view now? The MSU/Cornell research showed copper to only slightly improve chances. I have to go with the more modern reference. Plus the fact as stated, our state is very dependant on our cherry industry. The info is good.
Remember MSU has brought cultivars into the market and has numerous trials for cherry trees going on. Danube and Jubileum have been released and look excellent. We spend a lot of money on cherry research and have hundreds of test acres. MSU has been working with Gardens Alive and the Romance series out of Canada too.
MSU is testing the Romance series currently.
I have heard of no work OSU has done with cherries.

This post was edited by Drew51 on Sat, Jan 18, 14 at 16:26


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

" have heard of no work OSU has done with cherries. "

Oops! I have to take that back, they have worked and made a number of videos with MSU about MI cherry trees.
Looks like these guys have worked together to study how to use Gisela rootstocks, A collaborative project of: Dr. Gregory Lang, Michigan State University; Lynn Long, Oregon State University; Win Cowgill, Rutgers University; Jon Clements, UMass Amherst; and Gisela® Inc


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

Drew, I was looking through the internet about MSU's stand about applying copper and they seem to only recommend it applied to flowers, not pruning wounds. In this article they say it has no affect when used in conjunction with pruning.

Do you have something more recent than this?

Here is a link that might be useful: Use of copper for BC in cherries.


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

"In this article they say it has no affect when used in conjunction with pruning. "

No, they say minimal to no effect. Also that is Cornell's advice, all the MSU experts say spray, and the info is in every document or most on pruning.


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

Drew, I'm sorry, I did accidentally (subconsciously on purpose, probably) exaggerate, but the guide doesn't recommend spray after pruning.

However, upon further reading, I've found that your information is correct and copper spray is widely recommended after pruning even though it isn't very affective- but enough so to be worth doing according to current Cornell and other guidelines.

I stand corrected and thank you for bringing this to my attention.

After reading all this material about cherry canker I am somewhat surprised that my careless timing of pruning has never led to any outbreaks of this infection over the last 25 years.

Cherries are a minority species in orchards I manage and I am very busy doing non-pruning work in the first couple weeks after trees come out of dormancy. It would be expensive to come back to prune only cherries and peaches at many of the smaller orchards I manage.

I recently started managing cherries with summer pruning anyway- but only to better manage fruiting wood. I will now pay more attention to weather forecasts before performing this kind of pruning. I will wait until I actually see some cherry canker somewhere before I start spraying after pruning. I have to keep customer expenses down.

If you hadn't posted about it I wouldn't think about cherry canker much at all.

Thanks again.


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

"After reading all this material about cherry canker I am somewhat surprised that my careless timing of pruning has never led to any outbreaks of this infection over the last 25 years."

Some people are just good at what they do.
I myself as really a beginner here, have had terrible luck with cherries. Last year I managed to secure a Cupid and Romeo plant from the Romance series. Not sold in the USA. Both are dead. No chance of replacing them.
I'm ready to throw in the towel! I do have a couple of sweet cherry trees that are doing OK in a bad environment.I lost one, another I'm battling canker on, it is OK for now. The third never got it. I though do not plan on replacing them, should something happen. It's just too hard to grow them at my cottage. I will grow cherries in the city from now on. Others on the island have trees, but they are in better locations. I'm in the middle of the woods, besides the moisture, the air flow is low there. I have found that the Cornus Mas Dogwood grows well there, bamboo, variegated plants, and some wild brambles. I'm going to try highbush cranberries, and swamp currants. I've often said I have ideal conditions in the city, but really anything is ideal after dealing with the environment on a small island in the middle of a massive river.


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RE: When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

It is also very difficult if you don't have open sky to the east. If the environment is wrong, it doesn't matter how good you are at what you do. A world class chef can't cook a good meal from rotten produce.

I assume you noticed that growing cherries on berms is highly recommended and seems to make as much difference as anything else you can do for most all that ails cherries.


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