Every year people wonder if the fruit tree they have needs to be pruned back.
Normally they ask the question because little or no fruit has developed, or the tree is just overgrown.
Proper tree care does come into play, and you do need to keep trees, especially fruit trees, shaped, thinned, and opened up for good air circulation as well as giving them regular food and water.
You also need to know if your particular varieties need cross pollinators or if they are self-pollinating.
Lack of these basics can really cut down on fruit production.
That said however, some fruit trees do need more pruning each year than others because some produce fruit on old wood and some on new wood. So let's take a look at each.
Trees that do NOT need to be pruned yearly to produce fruit are:
These fruit trees should be pruned yearly only for structure, shape, or to thin out crossing or rubbing branches.
They should never be severely pruned back because these trees bear fruit on older wood structures called fruit spurs.
The fruit spurs need time to grow and develop and should not pruned off unless your tree is loaded with fruit every year and you need to thin production.
Spurs will die out however if they are shaded too much. So upper and outer branches should be thinned out and cut back to let light and air into the center of the tree so the fruit spurs will remain healthy.
So on these trees, light pruning only, in combination with regular food, water, and any pest management needed, and your trees will produce really well.
For more read: How To Prune An Apple Tree
Trees that DO need to be pruned yearly to produce fruit are:
These fruit trees bear fruit on one year old wood. So each year a few older branches can be removed, thinned, and cut back to encourage lots of
new growth, in addition to any pruning that may need to be done for shape, structure, and general health of the tree as mentioned above.
Now that we have established which trees need pruning, the next question is, "When is the best time of the year to prune?"
When Fruit Trees Should Be Pruned
Fruit trees can be pruned in the winter, spring, or summer depending upon what your goals are.
Winter Pruning: When the tree is dormant, this is the best time to do any heavy pruning for shape, structure, removal of branches, etc. Once the tree comes out of dormancy it will start to grow vigorously and its energy will be needed to put into new growth, flower and fruit set.
Spring Pruning: Can be done very carefully after the fruit has set. Pruning at this time keeps trees (and dwarf trees) smaller and doesn't reduce the fruit crop, because by mid-spring, it is obvious which branches are producing fruit and which are not, so productive branches can be saved.
Summer Pruning: By this time you can see any dead branches that did not come back, and now is a good time to remove them.