IN THE GARDEN: Prune your fruit trees

Now through mid-February is the best time to prune all your fruit trees. Fruit trees fall into three basic fruiting systems: open center system, central leader system, and natural.

The fruit tree varieties that fall under the open center system are peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums, prunes, and persimmons. The varieties of the central leading system include apple and pear. Natural, with a little training in size manageability, are the fig and the pomegranate.

Open center pruning

The main idea of ​​peach fruit tree pruning and open center system is to remove the old, gray, slow growing shoots that are not bearing fruit. We want to keep the one-year, 18 to 24 inch, red-colored shoots.

Removing 40 percent of the tree each year stimulates new growth each spring.

The second goal of pruning is to lower the fruiting area to a comfortable height for harvesting fruit. The third goal is to open the center of the tree: this increases air circulation, reduces disease pressure and allows sunlight to accelerate the color and sweetness of the fruit.

First, remove all dead limbs, rootstock suckers, and water splashes in the bottom 3 feet. Next, remove all shoots above the 7-foot mark other than the 18- to 24-inch red-colored fruiting shoots. Then, remove any shoots that grow toward the center of the tree. Imagine an umbrella upside down – this is how you want the finished product to look. Finally, remove all old gray wood in the 3 to 7 foot fruit growing area.

Central leader

In the beginning, when you plant a young apple or pear tree, prune the tree by a third. As the tree matures, it allows the main trunk (the center leading up) to grow with the branches of the tree branching off from the main trunk.

Apple and pear trees have narrow crotch angles. This means that the limbs are at a small angle to the main trunk. You could train the tree to have a slightly wider angle to spread out more if desired. Cut a piece of wood with notches in each end of the radius of the limb you are about to enlarge. The length of the cut piece of wood will be determined by the distance of the branch from the trunk and how far you would like to spread the branch away from the trunk.

Another option is to use a soft rope or padding under a rope. Use weights on the end of the rope to pull the limb down or secure the rope to the ground.

Ideally, the distance between the limb and the central main trunk should be between 8 inches and no more than 2 feet. The spaced or spread out tree allows for more sunlight, resulting in a healthier tree and fleshier fruit.


Fig and pomegranate trees require little pruning. Pruning may simply be to keep the tree at a height that is easier for you to harvest your yummy.

Mark your calendars

The 23rd Annual Hill Country Lawn and Garden ShowSponsored by the Highland Lakes Master Gardener Association, it is March 25 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm in the Burnet County AgriLife Extension auditorium, 607 N. Vandeveer at Burnet.

The Llano County Master Gardeners Association Lawn and Garden Show is April 1 from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm at the Llano County Courthouse Plaza, 800 Ford St. in Llano.

Until the next time.

Keep your souls and soles in your garden! Remember the true master gardener: Jesus said, “I am the vine; my father is the gardener. John 15:1

“In the Garden” was written by daughter-father gardening team Martelle and Bill Luedecke. If you have questions about gardening, contact Martelle at 512-769-3179 or [email protected] or Bill at 512-577-1463 or [email protected]. Read more “In the Garden” columns in the 101 Lawn and Garden Guide.

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