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nafex - Re: [NAFEX] Summer pruning

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  • From: Douglas Woodard <>
  • To: North American Fruit Explorers <>
  • Subject: Re: [NAFEX] Summer pruning
  • Date: Sat, 28 Aug 2010 17:13:40 -0400

I think that much depends on *what* you are pruning and *why* and *where* and *when*.

I recall British discussions of pruning apricots. With them in Britain apparently the big problem is a bacterial disease called "dieback" which can be deadly. The recommendation as I recall it was to prune in early June (?) at the time of fastest growth when the tree would be least liable to infection and wound healing quickest. Apparently this was found to give satisfactory results but pruning at other times had been found to be dangerous. I suspect that other species of Prunus in other places may be subject to similar considerations.

In Niagara Peninsula orchards the custom is to prune peaches when the trees are in blossom, perhaps partly for quick healing but probably mostly so one can see what the effect of winter has been on the fruit buds, and whether the need is to reduce or conserve the crop.

Regarding promoting growth versus dwarfing in apples:

If you prune during the dormant season (but in cold areas it's best to prune when the risk of extreme cold is past, at least after the first half of February) then the stored food from the roots is sent up into whatever wood remains on top to promote growth. Whether this is good or bad depends on the situation. Is the tree a weak-growing or a vigourous cultivar? is it bigger than you want or do you want it to grow? what is the soil? water supply? light exposure? Are you trying to dwarf the tree?

If the aim is dwarfing then one wants to wait until whatever sugar was stored in the roots has been brought up, and maybe till after the spring flush of growth has passed.

Adjusting crop load or exposing fruit to light may suggest different timing.

If cold-hardiness is in doubt whether due to cultivar or location, then I'd say don't prune after mid-July or in extreme cases the beginning of July.

If you are pruning to shape a vigourous cultivar which hasn't yet borne its first fruit and is known to be late in coming into bearing (Northern Spy is the classic example) then you want to avoid dormant pruning and to prune as little as possible, guiding growth by techniques like pinching buds as much as you can. With a young Spy tree on seedling stock you can delay its fruiting till the 20th year by careless dormant pruning.

I suggest that you think about the factors that are operating in your case, put them together, and be wary of simplistic old sayings.

Doug Woodard
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada wrote:
In a message dated 8/28/2010 9:47:08 AM Eastern Daylight Time, writes:

OK, but in that case, wouldn't I be better off pruning now, rather than waiting for dormant pruning? After all, in either case, the wound won't be healed by spring. But it might be a LITTLE further along if I prune now.

Hello Bill,

I submit there are fungal spores in the air now that will not be there in say Feb. Pruning now before spring active growth begins simply leaves the wound open and exposed longer.

But if you will be tight for time next spring now is better than not pruning at all.

I heard one man say once there are only 52 days a year that you can't prune apples, every Sunday. But I've pruned many trees on Sundays and lightening hasn't struck me yet.


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