As Canadians get busy with the apple harvest, we get ever closer to the appropriate time of the year to prune apple trees.

Prune apples after they have produced their fruit and before next spring comes. 

Stand back and have a good look at your apple tree before cutting a limb. Imagine the tree with wide open branching, allowing for a maximum amount of sun and air to filter through the tree during the growing season. The fruit will ripen more evenly, and insects and disease will be minimized. 

Remove mature branches that are no longer producing a lot of fruit and eliminate criss- crossing branches and water sprouts.

Be sure to use clean, sharp cutting tools.  I like to use a pruning saw, which cuts on the forestroke and backstroke, for growth over 3 cm or 1 1/2 inches.  For branches that are about the thickness of your thumb use loppers and for smaller limbs use a quality pair of hand pruners. 

Pears do not like to be pruned as they become susceptible to fire blight when they are pruned severely.  There will be times, however, when it makes sense to prune a pear tree.  If it is growing into a hydro wire or against a wall you will want get it under control.  Generally, however, a pear is quite capable of maximizing its own crop of fruit.

Cherry and plum trees are pruned much like apples.

Apricots, nectarines and peaches are best pruned hard come spring.  Assess the winter damage and remove the dead branches at that time.  It is better to prune more than necessary than not enough.

Mark Cullen