This week, I want to share with you the difference between fruit trees that produce on first-year wood and ones that produce on second-year wood. It is really important to know this because this will determine how you prune your trees.
As I said last week, pruning can be a bit daunting – especially the first time. My aim is to inspire you to give it a go – and here’s my top tips to get you started.
What does ‘fruits on first-year wood’ mean?
I find this expression quite misleading, as it really means the branch grows in summer one and produces in summer two. First-year wood is always the wood at the end of the branches. It is a good idea to have a close inspection of your trees when they have no leaves and then you will see a significant colour difference in the wood, depicting year one growth that is the fresh, new, softer and often more colourful wood, then as it goes back in age, the wood darkens or is just older looking.
Should I prune my citrus trees?
Citrus are first-year wood producers, so the new growth you have now will bear fruit next year. These are good trees to look at right now as they have fruit and new growth on them. Note where your fruit is on your trees and also look at the fresh new growth. With citrus, I tend not to do too much pruning as, I always harvest my fruit by cutting it off with secateurs, which is, in itself, a form of pruning.
I always take the middle out of my citrus to enable airflow, thus preventing disease building up. I also take out branches that are really crowding each other, or older ones that are not producing. The aim is to have strong healthy branches that will support the weight of the fruit.
What do I do after I’ve pruned my tree?
After cutting the branch out, I apply organic pruning paste to prevent that area re-growing. If you cut branches off and don’t paste then they will throw out lots of new shoots, defeating the purpose of removing the branches.
Always cut off broken or diseased branches and cut out borer (this will be covered in the coming months). This time of year, I always fertilise my tree and feed weekly with Fruit Optimise as I find this produces lots of healthy, big fruit and it gives the tree enough food to produce and enable new, healthy growth.
So when should I get started?
The following delectable fruits all produce on first year wood:
Almonds, Citrus, Feijoa, Fig, Guava, Cherry, Olive, Blueberries, Kiwifruit, Persimmon
June is your month to get started on these trees. The aim of this blog is to help you identify the trees you can have a go at pruning, especially if this is your first time.
Blueberries produce on one-year old wood, but require little or no pruning – just to shape and remove dead branches. Then every four years, remove the really old wood to encourage new growth.
Cherry produces on first-year and second-year wood and older fruiting spurs.
Figs produce on the tips of the previous season’s growth so be mindful not to cut too much off. You can generally take off half of the new growth to prevent the tree from getting huge and, as you have more new growth coming, you can take off the older branches. If you prune the tree too hard, it will produce lots of leafy growth and not much fruit. Saying that, last year I pruned my four metre high fig tree down to a stump of 30 cm and now it has a great new shape and I only have had to sacrifice fruit for one season.
With kiwifruit, remove the cane that produced the fruit last season and let the new cane that has grown replace this for the following season.
Olives appreciate a good prune. Remove any dead wood and prune to reduce the height of the tree, making it easier when harvesting. I also take out the central branch to enable me to stand in the tree to harvest the fruit. Olives like feijoas, figs, peaches, persimmon and most fruit trees can be cut off completely to about 50cm+ above the ground, and they will grow back really well. Sometimes this can seem radical but in the long run, it can give your tree a new lease of life with very healthy growth and the only sacrifice is the fruit for one year, which in the scheme of things is not long at all.
Persimmon trees appreciate a prune, especially cutting back spindly branches, as these won’t be able to support the heavy fruit that will bear the following season. It is always good to keep the middle of the tree open to allow air flow and keep good, strong healthy branches as the thinner ones will snap. A persimmon tree can get huge so remember to keep pruned to the height you require. Pruning for these trees usually happens around July, as the month of June still sees them bearing fruit.
Well, get those secateurs out and give it a go! Your trees will love you for it… If you have any questions, as always, I welcome you to reach out and ask me.
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Happy pruning everyone!