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Winter Pruning: Keeping Your Fruit Trees Healthy

Winter Pruning: Keeping Your Fruit Trees Healthy

Although it is cold outside, now is a good time to start pruning your fruit trees. They’re dormant. They’re waiting. You might as well bundle up and get it over with.

Pruning will shape a tree into something beautiful with a structure that has integrity to better withstand the effects of wind, snow, and other weather conditions that damage branches. And by removing dead or diseased wood, you will make a tree healthier.

Don’t forget your gloves, by the way.

Above: The first step is to get rid of the clutter. Suckers are thin branches that sprout haphazardly from a trunk or larger support branches; they make a tree look like it has a Sideshow Bob haircut. Use loppers to remove them at their base. Photograph via The Little Ragamuffin.

Above: Remove water sprouts, common on many varieties of fruit trees, by clipping them off close to the trunk. Photograph by Menudujour via Flickr.

Above: Prune older trees first and wait until winter is nearly over before you prune younger, more fragile trees. The harder you prune a tree, the less fruit it will produce next season. Prune older trees lightly and reserve your greater enthusiasm for shaping younger, more malleable trees. Photograph via Eat Well Farm.

Above: There are two general shaping techniques: creating a central leader system and or an open center system. For step-by-step instructions for both, see Happy Gardens.

For more pruning tips, see Gardenista‘s post 5 Favorites: Elegant Espalier in the Winter Garden.

Read more: Crafts & Hobbies, Environment, Lawns & Gardens, Nature, Nature & Wildlife, Outdoor Activities, Remodelista, , , , , ,

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Gardenista is a one-stop sourcebook for cultivated living, a guide to outdoor design and gardening. Helmed by former New York Times columnist Michelle Slatalla, Gardenista features inspiration, garden visits, and advice for all things outdoor living, from patios and peonies, to tables and terraces. Gardens matter, and Gardenista celebrates tomatoes on the fire escape as much as rolling acres of green.


+ add your own
9:11AM PST on Feb 3, 2013

Great tips,thanks.

1:38AM PST on Jan 21, 2013

Thank you.

8:43AM PST on Jan 16, 2013

Yea, got to get on that this weekend.

12:35AM PST on Jan 13, 2013

We have at least a hundred, old and unkempt apple trees...I better get moving on this pruning business before spring gets here! Thanks for the info.

9:14AM PST on Jan 12, 2013


8:25AM PST on Jan 11, 2013


7:58AM PST on Jan 11, 2013

How old does a tree need to be before triming?

4:39AM PST on Jan 11, 2013

We can do something to prepare for a better future

10:45PM PST on Jan 10, 2013

Thankyou for the great article. I do a bit of trimming of my trees and flower for the winter my self.. Every late fall I do. so that all my flowers and my japanese maple with be more healthy in the next year..

8:38PM PST on Jan 10, 2013


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