Thursday, February 15, 2018

Winter Pruning Tips

Laddy Lau

In early February, a dedicated group of Master Gardeners took part in a fruit tree pruning effort at the Permaculture demo garden in Fairmount Park.

Pruning your fruit trees can be captured by the 3 Cs:
  • crossing
  • competing
  • crowding
The three Cs help to provide light, space and allow for continued growth. The group helped to prune pear and pie cherry trees in addition to brambles, like blackberries and raspberries.

When you consider pruning, there is a lesser chance of disease in the winter compared to the growing season.  Despite the temperature, it is always a good idea to sterilize your tools with alcohol before and after pruning.


For trees over 10 feet, you may choose several options to prune whether it is with a loppers, pole saw and/or pole pruner (images below from left to right).  

Whichever tool you use, the basic concepts apply:

  • Cut off root suckers and sprouts 
  • Remove a competing, co-dominant leader
  • Eliminate branches that rub together and block light
  • Thin excessive branches to reduce competition for light, water, and nutrients
  • Remove a few of the lowest limbs but others are temporarily left to help the trunk develop more taper and strength
  • Remove narrow angled branches
For your brambles, here are a few tips:

  • Raspberries

  1. Prune grayish, peeling bark canes that bore fruit last year; they won't fruit again
  2. Cut back spindly or short canes
  3. Thin raspberry canes so that 4 to 5 canes/foot in a row are the healthiest, tallest, and thickest
  4. Tie your sturdy canes to your fencing
    1. After harvest, prune canes that bore fruit last year; they won't fruit again
    2. Prune growing tips to enhance next season's growth
    3. Cut back spindly or short canes
    4. Thin blackberry canes to 5 to 7 canes/plant 
Pruning of second year bramble canes 
For more detailed information, see these additional links.


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