Wait to Prune Fruit Trees

Clint Thompson Fruit, Top Posts

Pruning of southern highbush blueberries is required to open the middles of the plants for machine harvesting from the top.

Pruning fruit trees is an important management tactic that producers and homeowners need to implement every year. Industry experts emphasize, though, the importance of growers waiting until the winter dormancy period before beginning the pruning process.

Gray

In doing so, producers will avoid damage from colder temperatures.

“Years ago, we used to prune our peach orchards, for example, in the fall. A lot of our growers did that to get it done. They had a lot of pruning to do. We learned over the years, (though), that makes the fruit trees bloom earlier,” said Gary Gray, Alabama Regional Extension agent.

More Susceptible to Colder Temps

According to a University of Georgia Extension blog, pruning stimulates the growth of the trees. That’s why industry experts insist growers wait until later in the dormant season to prune. If trees bloom early, they’re more susceptible to damage from a potential freeze.

“When we prune, that sets them up to bloom a little earlier and it causes them to be more cold sensitive as a result. The one aspect of that would be, for example, whenever you go in and prune and lets say we’re pruning … after Jan. 1 up until bloom, basically is a good time to get it done…a commercial grower who has a lot of trees, he can’t wait too late to get it done,” Gray said. “There’s a risk that if we had a freeze immediately following or really cold weather immediately following pruning that we might get increased damage on those trees.”

If growers wait until later in the dormancy period, it reduces the risk of being impacted by freezing temperatures since the weather starts to warm with the impending arrival of spring.

Why Prune?

UGA Extension says pruning is one of the most important cultural practices for maintaining woody plants. For fruiting plants, like peach trees, pruning plays an important role in improving overall fruit quality, primarily by increasing light penetration into the tree. But proper pruning requires understanding of how plants respond to the different pruning cuts.

That’s why it is essential that growers wait as long as possible before implementing the pruning process.  

“If a grower or a home (owner) can wait, the later those trees are going to bloom. You’re not promoting the dormancy breaking process that happens when you prune. For example, if the buds are still dormant, we’d like for them to stay that way to reduce our risk of freeze damage in the spring,” Gray said.