Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

March 7, 2019
Basic principles for healthy, successful fruit trees

Editor’s note: “A Better Life” is a weekly column by the USU Extension – Tooele Office that focuses on a variety of topics intended to enhance quality of life. 

It’s time to prune your fruit trees. If there is three feet of snow on the ground when this article is published that doesn’t matter; it’s still time to find your loppers and get pruning. 

The buds are swelling and will break soon so come join us for a free pruning demonstration this Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. I will demonstrate pruning methods for peach, apple, grape and raspberries. The demonstration will take place at 1427 N. Spring Meadow Drive on the northeast side of Tooele, which is east of Droubay Road and south of Pine Canyon Road. 

If you get lost, call Andrea at 435-757-4102. If you can’t make it to the demonstration, don’t worry. We have some great online demonstrations and fact sheets on pruning. Just search pruning, USU Extension and the fruit you want to learn about.

Peach trees should be pruned to an open center so that all of the branches and leaves have the best chance to get sunlight. Apple trees are pruned to have a central leader with three to four branches in successive tiers as the tree grows. Each tier should be about 18 to 24 inches apart with the branches rotated to 45 degrees from the one below it. Again this is for maximum sunlight penetration to the leaves. 

Sunlight drives photosynthesis, which produces sugar and which is what fruit is made of. Why do peach and apple forms have to be different? They don’t. It’s your tree and it’s a free country so do whatever you want with it. But you’ll have the best chance for success if you follow these guidelines. 

Apple trees are prolific sprouters and if you pruned it to an open center it will fill in with what we call water sprouts. You also could prune a peach to a central leader and still get fruit, but stone fruits respond better because their growth habit is more spread out and apple trees have an upright growth habit.

When you plant a new peach tree you should cut it off below the lowest branch. This is almost impossible to do for anyone with little or no knowledge of pruning. It goes against every instinct or feeling they may have but if done will send out new buds, probably three to five. If there are five, cut one off so that the remaining four are equal distance apart. If there are only three branches that is OK. 

There are not many perfect fruit trees but there are a lot of good ones. If you understand and follow a few basic principles, you can be successful and have healthy, productive trees. Train the young branches to have wide angles; they are much stronger and can bear the weight of the fruit load better than steep angles, which are broken easily when the weight of the fruit increases. To do this put spreader sticks between the branch and central leader. 

For an open center pruned tree, you can tie string on the branch with a weight on it to force it down and open up the angle. If none of this makes sense to you, come to the pruning demonstration this Saturday. It is always easier to understand when you see it. If you can’t make it, check out these online demonstrations that I have included links for. 

Peaches: www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Xzl-OaUKbE 

Apples: www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3dMf_4OtLA 

Linden Greenhalgh is the county director of the USU Extension – Tooele County office, which is located inside the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main, Tooele. The phone number is 435-277-2400.

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