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Pruning Fruit Trees

Q. How and when should a crabapple and peach tree be pruned?

A. A good time to prune fruit trees is early March before the buds begin to swell. The branching habits are clearly outlined, and the weather is generally more conducive to outdoor work. Choose a clear bright day and avoid working in the rain or walking over the root zone of a tree when the soil is soft and wet. Use sterilized tools, wiping the blades of the tools with a 10 percent bleach solution after each pruning cut. A primary goal of pruning a fruit tree is to open up the canopy of the tree by pruning out branches that grow toward the center of the canopy rather than out away from the center. This will permit more light and air to circulate through. Remove all dead or diseased branches. These will be easy to spot since the wood is generally darker than healthy wood. Prune out all suckers that arise from the ground next to the main trunk or grow vertically from lateral branches. Try to encourage the growth of lateral fruit-producing branches and discourage upright vertical growth that produces little fruit. Finally, prune out branches that rub against each other or are growing over a walkway, driveway or doorway