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  • From: Lee Reich <>
  • To: North American Fruit Explorers <>
  • Subject: Re: [NAFEX] Summer Pruning
  • Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2010 21:48:52 -0400

Dave Ferree re-states what is commonly written about cold damage and pruning in his book Apples. He also cites a reference: Rollins, H. A., Howlett, F. S., and Emmert, F. H.  (1962) Gactors affecting apple hardiness and methods of measuring resistance of tissue to low temperature injury. Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center Research Circular 901, 71.

You can also read the chapter on pruning on googlebooks.

Lee Reich, PhD

Books by Lee Reich:
A Northeast Gardener's Year
The Pruning Book
Weedless Gardening
Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden
Landscaping with Fruit

On Aug 31, 2010, at 2:27 PM, Alan Haigh wrote:

My NAFEX membership had accidentally run out so I wasn’t able to post my take on summer pruning although I was chomping at the bit to throw in my 2 cents.  I’ve rectified the lapse so I’m ready to run.

I used to base timing of pruning on the suggestions I found in the general literature giving special attention to University based guidelines such as those provided by Cornell.   I remember one such suggestion that the best time for pruning was in about the last 2 weeks of winter when trees are still completely dormant but the harshest weather is past.

Later I found that Cornell recommended pruning peaches after beginning of growth to discourage canker as wounds closed more quickly at this time.  At that point I’d already pruned hundreds of peach trees for several seasons in the northeast without suffering any penalty.   In addition,  my business of managing other people’s orchards had become far too large to accomplish all the pruning in just a few weeks and by the time peaches were growing I had other things to tend to.

Adding to the incentive of expanding  my window for pruning were stories I heard from commercial growers of sending out the same crews who harvested their apples  to prune the orchard as soon as harvest was over.   In hort-school I’d been taught that this was the worst possible time to prune but these men whose survival was entwined with the survival of their trees were quite comfortable defying this theory and did so for decades without suffering any apparent consequence.  This is in the Hudson Valley where Nov. temps can sometimes drop to zero (a decade ago, anyway).

I realize that what can be done with apples may not apply to other fruits, but what I also believe is that a lot of the professed dangers of pruning at different times are either exaggerated or non-researched hearsay.

The idea that late summer pruning will delay hardening off for winter, for instance, would have to be established with clear research for me to give it any credibility.  I’ve seen trees send out a lot of late vegetative growth in late summer because of a long period of drought followed by heavy rain in mid-August.  Most species were not damaged by the following harsh winter and only the plums suffered any apparent damage at all.  This damage was only on the late growing shoots- the rest of the wood apparently hardened off normally.   Carl Whitcomb has done research that indicates that late summer nitrogen application also does not harm tested species abilities to harden off for winter which is an indication that pruning probably doesn’t  either.

If fruit trees couldn’t survive this kind of damage easily I wonder how they’ve survived the predation of deer over the centuries and millenniums.  This predation tends to become most voracious in the assault of leaves and whole branches in late summer and early fall, often leaving terrible bark wounds.

In other regions than mine there may be legitimate reasons not to prune certain species at certain times but at least here in southeastern NY the old adage that the best time to prune is when the shears are sharp seems fairly accurate.  I can’t speak, however, for Apricot trees, which are such weak growers here that I can’t be sure if timely pruning might somehow be helpful.

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