Winter pruning is an essential task to keeping your fruit trees healthy and productive. Because the trees have shed their leaves, it is much easier to identify which branches are crossing and rubbing against each other. Remember that winter pruning may stimulate growth depending on the type of tree and its vigor. If you notice a lot of watersprouts, or new vertical growth, in your tree’s canopy, then a mixed balance of winter and summer pruning may be best.
In general, it’s okay to prune pears, apples, persimmons, figs, kiwis, and grapes in the winter, but try to hold off on pruning cherries, plums, peaches, and other stone fruit until spring and summer months. These fruits are more susceptible to bacterial and fungal diseases in cool, wet conditions, so try to prune them with a dry day before and after you prune. There are always exceptions to these rules though, so you’re welcome to contact us with any questions about the timing of pruning.
Winter is also an ideal time to plant new fruit trees. The tree should still be dormant in order to adjust to the soil before it awakes and sprouts new leaves and flowers in the spring. Typically, January and February are the perfect time to find a bare root tree at a local nursery. Compared to potted trees, bare root fruit trees tend to adapt to the soil more quickly and establish themselves better. They are also more affordable and offer more variety for local growers.
• Remove mummified fruit that may still be up in the tree. These are often found in stone fruit trees and invite fungal diseases to infect the tree. Further, pick up as much dropped fruit on the ground as possible. Pests such as codling moth, apple maggot fly, and spotted wing drosophila will overwinter in these fallen fruits, reinfecting the tree the next season.
• Take off any watering bags such as gators or donuts from the base of the tree. The tree’s root crown (base of the trunk) needs to be open to the air so that oxygen exchange can occur. It will also prevent the trunk from being constantly wet and potentially rotting.
• Weed around the base of the tree if needed. The weeds are not actively growing and the ground is moist, so it tends to be easier to take care of during this time.
• Take care of any grafting if desired in order to introduce multiple varieties of fruit, increase cross-pollination, and experiment for fun!