Observation

As harvest approaches for apple trees, it is a good idea to walk around your trees and observe how things look on August 1st. Look at your overall pruning job and take note as to what you should change next year. Is there adequate airflow through the tree? Can sunlight reach all of the fruits? How do the leaves look? And of course the fruit: clean? insect damage? fungal issues? size of fruit?

Each tree has different issues and by observing them individually throughout the season you can address some of those needs pre-emptively next year. Be sure to take good notes in your journal

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Summer Pruning

Some pruning can and should be done in the summer months. You do not want to cut big limbs unless they are dead or diseased. Young trees benefit from removing a few branches to help balance the beginning scaffold limbs. Older trees that sucker heavily and start to block sunlight in the upper canopy can also be pruned.

Watch your peach trees to see which branches are blocking the sunlight. Wait to prune those after the peaches have been harvested.

Pear trees are very susceptable to fireblight. If you see any brown, dead branches, remove those and destroy them. Remember to sanitize your tools afterwards.

Pruning Peach Trees – Late Pruning

Of all species, peaches can be pruned the most during the growing season.  A complete pruning after harvest can put energy into the shoots that will give fruit the following year.  Getting light on new wood (hence the need for an open center) is very important for peaches and will keep those areas productive for a much longer time.

This information came from local grower Mark Wessel via his friend Alan Haigh, an orchardist in the NY area.

Late Pruning of Apple Trees

Someone asked me the other day if it is too late to prune apple trees now that the trees are leafing out and getting ready to bloom.  Perhaps I answered too quickly when I said that it was too late.  Yes, it is too late to do the vigorous pruning you would do in the dormant season but light pruning can continue throughout the summer.

More detailed pruning information has come my way via local grower Mark Wessel.  He has a friend who is a professional orchardist in the NY area.  The advise from Alan Haigh is as follows:

Water sprouts can be wiped out any time and for the most part you can prune any season if you understand what you want and how trees respond.

Too much pruning before mid-summer and even after can have an adverse affect on the quality of the fruit.  Summer pruning can also improve the quality of fruit by getting light where you need it – when it hurts is when you make fruit watery as foliage can steer water and N away from the fruit to some degree as it ripens increasing the concentrations of sugar in the fruit. 

I will add his comments on pruning peaches, plums and cherries in another post.