Our meeting this February 21 will be on fruit tree grafting with Idell Weydemeyer of the Rare Fruit Tree Growers. We will be grafting different varieties of apples that thrive in the San Francisco Bay Area onto sturdy root stock.
In light of that I would like to address the timing of pruning fruit trees. As with many ideas in the horticulture world, our thinking of timing for fruit tree pruning has changed over the years. And actually many of our changing ideas have to do with what is practical and relevant to small scale gardens instead of copying larger scale agriculture practices.
If one has a large piece of land, has room for full scale fruit trees and a means to harvest and prune 20-25’ fruit trees, then winter pruning makes sense. However, most of us in the Bay Area have residential-size gardens and fruit trees grown on dwarf root stock. Our ideal is to have a tree of a size that we can harvest the fruit before it squishes to the ground, and prune it without risking life and limb.
So the time to prune the fruit trees is right after the harvest. A fruit tree’s job, after fruiting, is to gather as much energy as possible, through it’s leaves, to fuel next spring’s growth spurt. If we intercept, or slow down that energy gathering task, by pruning in summer, we regulate the spring growth and keep the tree in relative proportion to the garden and make it easier to harvest the next year’s crop. Also pruning cuts made while a tree is still actively growing heal quicker.
It’s especially important to not prune apricot trees in winter. Here in the Bay Area apricot trees are susceptible to Eutypa. This fungal disease causes sudden branch death and oozing cankers on the trees. The spores are spread by rainwater washing over pruning wounds. To prevent this disease from infecting the tree, it is essential to prune our apricot trees in summer after harvest.
Come to our Feb. 21 meeting: after our 1:00pm business meeting, at 1:45, we will be having a drawing for the newly published Grow a Little Fruit Tree by Ann Ralph, covering “simple pruning techniques for small-space, easy-harvest fruit trees”. Then we’ll have a refreshment break, and our program will start at 2:00pm at the Albany Community Center.