Yard and Garden: Prune Fruit Trees with Care

January 29, 2020, 8:54 am | Richard Jauron

Fruit trees can be a beautiful and fun addition to any landscape, and they should be pruned to obtain good yields of high-quality fruit. There are three important aspects to pruning fruit trees: timing, frequency and procedure. Horticulture specialists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach share information on how to prune fruit trees. To have additional questions answered, contact the Hortline at 515-294-3108 or hortline @iastate.edu.

When should I prune fruit trees?

Late February to early April is the best time to prune fruit trees in Iowa. Summer pruning of fruit trees is generally not recommended. However, water sprouts (rapidly growing shoots that often develop just below a pruning cut) can be removed in June or July. 
They should also be pruned on a regular basis, and annual pruning of young (non-bearing) fruit trees develops a strong framework and a desirable shape. Annual pruning of bearing trees maintains tree vigor, maximizes fruit yields and improves fruit quality. Young trees require light annual pruning. Bearing trees require light to moderate annual pruning. Insufficient pruning of bearing trees may result in small, poorly colored fruit with a low sugar content and mediocre flavor. Excessive pruning of bearing trees weakens trees and results in vigorous shoot growth with little or no flower bud formation, resulting in a poor crop the following year.
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