Pruning is generally saved for the late winter and early spring, but there is one group of plants that benefits from summer pruning and that is fruit trees.
Fruit trees, especially younger ones, can quickly outgrow a residential space. Summer pruning can be used to improve the light quality of the fruiting zone, thin heavy fruit loads, or remove other undesirable wood.
While primary pruning for fruit trees does occur during the dormancy of winter, removing a large portion of the tree will cause it to spend its energy on creating new vigorous, upright shoots, known as water sprouts. This leaves very little energy for fruit growth and development.
This is why during dormancy only the damaged, diseased, and dead wood should be removed. During the summer, water sprouts can be pruned with thinning cuts, allowing better light penetration without encouraging robust growth.
A young tree should be summer trained and pruned to properly orient the branches, and doing so helps ensure that less dormant pruning will be required.
When a new fruit tree is not trained in its first year, the tree structure can only be corrected with serious dormancy pruning. Training fruit trees is important because having the proper structure will allow the tree to support heavy crops without breaking its limbs.
If your clients decided to put a fruit or nut tree in their backyard, it probably means they would like to harvest some edibles from it. Pruning allows you to keep the tree’s height low and the fruit within reach.
When there is a fruit tree that has been neglected, it is best to bring it back into shape gradually. Remove limbs that overlap or hang down on other limbs. Thin out the upright shoots and select three to five main scaffold branches to develop.
While the yield can be reduced when a tree is pruned, the size and quality of the fruit will improve. After all, would your customer rather have quantity or quality?
To protect trees from winter injury, no summer pruning should be conducted after the end of July.