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Orchard Care: How to Prune Fruit Trees (And When!)

Gardeners LOVE that first day that really feels like spring is imminent. There may be snow on the ground, and it isn't quite time to start digging but you just cant wait to get outside. 

Here's the perfect early spring gardening task and one that is extremely important for the health of your fruit and crabapple trees: Pruning!

It is essential to get the timing right when it comes to pruning fruit trees. Here's what you need to know.

Fruit trees Blog Title

The key to growing a successful orchard is getting the pruning done correctly. Without a good prune at the right time, fruit trees in our area will struggle to bear consistent, healthy harvests.

Why do you need to prune fruit trees?

There is a careful balance that must be maintained for the health of semi-dwarf fruit trees. Trimming off excess branches helps maintain the strength of the tree and keeps the size manageable for home gardeners.

When to Prune Fruit Trees

To avoid cutting off this years harvestable crop, pruning should be complete by the time any buds start swelling. It is one of the first tasks you can do in the garden. When the winter temperatures begin to creep up, hitting around 40 degrees in the daytime, you can head outside to prune.

How to Prune Fruit Trees

Start by pruning off the water sprouts, which are the small vertical stems growing off the main branches. Once this is complete, look for diseased or broken branches to remove. Finally, work through minimizing excess branching to allow the central branching to grow unimpeded. Read this article for variety-specific details on pruning fruit trees.

When you prune, be sure to use a clean sharp tool and cut the branch as close as possible to the tree. This should leave you with a well shaped tree, strengthened and ready to bud out for spring.

If you're just starting out with growing an orchard, visit our garden center. Every spring we are stocked with a large variety of semi-dwarf fruit trees that acclimate well to our environment. 


Want to read more about how to grow an orchard? Here are a couple other recent articles.

How To Grow a Cherry Orchard

Grow an Orchard: The Best Apple Trees for Northern Illinois

Starting an Orchard? Here's What You Need to Know about The Pollination of Fruit Trees



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