Questions and Answers about Fruit and Nut Bearing Trees and Plants

Question:
Can you tell me how to prune or trim a Snow Fountain Weeping Cherry?

Answer:
The Snow Fountain Weeping Cherry has a peculiar shape. Most people prefer to keep the unique look to the limbs and let them grow a bit wild. If left alone, the limbs will grow until they reach the ground. If you prefer more of a twiggy umbrella look, cut off the branches at a uniform height after they flower. No matter what type of look you decide on for your weeping cherry, always remove dead, damaged and diseased wood as soon as you notice it.

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Question:
Is it O.K. to prune pear trees just like apple trees?

Answer:
It is fine to prune pear trees. It is generally best to prune pear trees late in the summer. You will stimulate the least amount of re-growth by pruning after the trees have finished growing for the year and have hardened their wood. If you live in an area where there's a chance for winter damage, wait to prune until late winter. While your pear trees are young, prune them to keep them from growing too tall. This will make it easier to harvest the fruit on the top branches. If you wait until the tree is too old to control the height, there is a great chance of inviting blight into the branches. Pear trees are generally easy to grow and maintain. This is one type of tree that tends to be self-thinning to save you some work. Give your pear trees the proper growing environment. Then maintain a regular pruning schedule to enhance the best possible fruit production.

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Question:
What is the best time to prune peach trees? How do you do it?

Answer:
Peach trees should be pruned yearly to maintain an open center, to eliminate weak or misdirected branch growth. If the trees have experienced winter damage, prune off the damaged wood in the early spring. This will allow the wounds to close faster as growth begins. In the early spring you should also be able to see how many flower buds have survived the cold weather. Using thinning cuts also helps keep the center of the tree open. Be sure to thin the fruit on the trees to about 6 inches between fruits. Wait to thin the fruit until June to see what the tree naturally drops itself. This thinning increases the size and quality of the fruit, and it prevents limbs from breaking under the heavy weight of the fruit.

Don't let these peach trees branch too close to the ground. The best fruit often grows at the top of the trees. Keep the tops of trees low, so they are easily accessible. Always prune before early summer and start minimizing your watering at this time, too. You don't want to stimulate new growth on the tree that will not have time to harden before winter.

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Question:
How do you prune a five-year old plum tree?

Answer:
Plum trees should be pruned to maintain an open center. If the trees have experienced winter damage, prune off the damaged wood in the early spring. This will allow the wounds to close faster as growth begins. In the early spring you should also be able to see how many flower buds have survived the cold weather. Using thinning cuts also helps keep the center of the tree open. Be sure to thin the fruit on the tree. This thinning increases the size and quality of the fruit, and it prevents limbs from breaking under the heavy weight of the fruit. Don't let your plum tree branch too close to the ground. The best fruit often grows at the top of the trees. Keep the tops of trees low, so they are easily accessible.

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Question:
I have an old apple tree that needs pruning. Could you please tell me when and how much to trim?

Answer:
The best time to prune your apple tree is when it is dormant. Generally this will be during the late fall and winter. Pruning in the hot summer months can be helpful for promoting fruit-bud formation, and cutting away some shoots just before the apples begin to ripen will let the sun reach them and allow them to soak up the sun, which is needed for the apples to turn rosy red. During the dormant season, you will want to cut away any overly vigorous stems, which are usually high in the trees. Cut these stems back to the old wood. Also remove any weak twigs. These twigs often hang from the undersides of the limbs. If the stems found low in the tree become too droopy, shorten them. Also, check for crowded branches. This is common in older trees. Thin out and shorten branch clusters to given them room to grow and also to invigorate them. If you notice a limb of fruit spurs that has declined with age and no longer bears much fruit, cut it back to allow space for a replacement.

As your apple tree ages, the spurs will crowd and start producing smaller fruit. By removing some spurs and cutting back others to a strong bud, you can invigorate the tree. Pay attention to how the apples are spaced on the tree. Apples grow best with a five-inch spacing. There should be no more than one fruit per flower cluster. Each fruit requires the work of about 40 leaves to receive enough nourishment. By evaluating your tree during the flowering and fruit-formation seasons, you can develop a plan for dormant tree pruning to invigorate your tree to optimal fruit bearing.

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Question:
I have two peach and two plum trees in my garden that are three years old. The nurseryman told me to let them go for the first three years then prune them back. How do I do this?

Answer:
Both peach and plum trees should be pruned to maintain an open center. If the trees have experienced winter damage, prune off the damaged wood in the early spring. This will allow the wounds to close faster as growth begins. In the early spring you should also be able to see how many flower buds have survived the cold weather. Using thinning cuts also helps keep the center of the tree open. Be sure to thin the fruit on both types of trees. This thinning increases the size and quality of the fruit, and it prevents limbs from breaking under the heavy weight of the fruit. Don't let these fruit trees branch too close to the ground. The best fruit often grows at the top of the trees. Keep the tops of trees low, so they are easily accessible.

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Question:
I have two four-foot pomegranate trees the produce a few flowers but no fruit. How can I prune and care for them?

Answer:
One thing you must do for fruit production on your pomegranate trees is to remove all suckers. Cut them down to the ground. Flowers develop on two- to three-year-old wood. Mature plants need to be lightly pruned annually to remove old unproductive wood. This regular pruning will stimulate new growth and thin out excess fruit. Be careful not to over prune the trees, as this will further reduce your crops.

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Question:
We have a weeping cherry that has developed three branches that grow vertically, not in the graceful weeping fashion. I am assuming that these vertical branches need to be removed. When is the best time of year to do that?

Answer:
If your weeping cherry tree is an established tree and has just recently developed the three vertical branches, they need to be removed. This can be done at any time of the year. Any weeping tree needs a strong central leader and a few other strong upper branches to grow tall and begin to arch in order to support the long weeping twigs. If your tree is still young, prune it to keep one central stem and a few good side ones. Prune your weeping cherry in late summer or fall, when the sap won't bleed as much. Continually remove water sprouts from the branches, as well as any suckers at the base of the tree. When pruning, always remove the entire stem. If you don't cut them all the way to their starting point, it will produce an unattractive twiggy growth. Once your branches start to trail the ground and get in the way, the tips may be pruned.

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Question:
How do I prune and care for my 10-year-old flowering crab apple tree? Some of the fruit is still on and has dried up right on the tree.

Answer:
Start pruning your crab apple tree by removing limbs that are diseased, overcrowded, poorly placed, dead or damaged. Make all of these cuts cleanly with a sharp pruning saw. Cut the branches back to the trunk or originating limb. Also, remove one of any two limbs that rub against each other or are crossing. Water sprouts and suckers need to be cut off as soon as you notice them. As the tree matures, it may grow top heavy and possibly develop drooping branches. You can deal with this situation by pruning so the lower half of the tree has the densest foliage. You can also help keep the tree open to light and air with thinning cuts in the crown. If you need to restore the symmetry of the crown of the tree, use mostly thinning cuts. Do your heavy pruning in the late fall and winter. Also pull off the dried fruit left on your tree branches in the late winter. In the spring, remove any winter-damaged branches.

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Question:
I have a three-year-old Carpathian Walnut tree. The main stem died over the first winter, and all I have is side branches, so it's looking like a bush. Do I just leave it alone and let it get taller, or what?

Answer:
If the main stem (leader) is dead on your Carpathian Walnut tree, you need to establish a new leader for the tree. Cut off a healthy branch at the point it joins the dead leader. Tie this healthy branch to the dead leader from just below the point of damage. Use a vertical splint made of bamboo or wood to support the new leader. Attach the splint, dead leader and new leader with twine. If the trunk won't support the splint alone easily, tie the splint to a stout stake, which has been driven into the ground. Cut off the dead leader just above where the new one has been attached. You will need to leave the splint in place until the new leader is able to support itself. This may take a year or two.

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Question:
I have a mature Hass Avocado tree that stands alone. Are they self-pollinating or how can I pollinate a tree like that?

Answer:
It is possible that your lone Hass Avocado Tree may be able to self-pollinate. It would need to have blossoms which are receptive to pollen in the morning and have others that are receptive to it in the afternoon. It may also help to house bees nearby. Keep in mind that Avocado trees take eight to ten years before they will bear fruit. Also, bees will not pollinate during windy or rainy weather.

The best advice may be to plant another Avocado tree nearby to allow for cross-pollination. You cannot pollinate the tree yourself, but you can provide an environment that will encourage it.

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Question:
The leaves on my pear tree have started to turn black and wilt. Can I do anything about it?

Answer:
It sounds like your pear tree has been hit by a plague called fire blight. This is a bacterial disease that causes the leaves and twigs to blacken, so they appear burned. The leaves may also curl (wilt) over into a 'shepherd's crook'shape.

The leaves and twigs get the disease from insects who enter the flowers during springtime. The best way to prevent the disease is by choosing a resistant variety. It also helps to keep the tree plenty moist, especially during blossom time and when the fruit is ripening. Using mulch around the base of the tree will help hold in moisture and may also prevent too-early flowering.

Prune your tree lightly. This will avoid producing vigorous new growth that is more susceptible to blight.

Since your tree has already been hit by fire blight, you will need to prune out the affected shoots at least several inches below the damaged area. Be sure to sterilize your clippers in a chlorine solution between cuts and destroy the cuttings by burying or burning them. If your tree is badly damaged, it may need to be replaced. Professional arborists may be able to use an antibiotic spray to get rid of the disease.

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Question:
We have a mature weeping cherry tree, about six years old, grafted. How should we prune it to control the upward direction of the branches at the top of tree? It is about 15 to 20 feet high.

Answer:
If your established weeping cherry tree has just recently developed branches growing in a upward direction, they need to be removed. This can be done at any time of the year.

Any weeping tree needs a strong central leader and a few other strong upper branches to grow tall and begin to arch in order to support the long weeping twigs. Young trees should be pruned to keep one central stem and a few good side ones. Prune your weeping cherry in late summer or fall, when the sap won't bleed as much. Continually remove water sprouts from the branches, as well as any suckers at the base of the tree. When pruning, always remove the entire stem. If you don't cut them all the way to their starting point, it will produce an unattractive twiggy growth. Once your branches start to trail the ground and get in the way, the tips may be pruned.

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Question:
How do I prune old pear trees sending up tall branches, not with spurs?

Answer:
Cut back the branches without spurs to a strong central leader. Pear trees produce most of their fruit on long-lived spurs. Your branches without spurs may be overgrown water sprouts that were not trimmed off earlier. Thin out these spur-less branches in the winter.

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Question:
How and when should I prune a five-year-old Bradford pear?

Answer:
Your Bradford pear tree should be pruned to have one strong central leader with side scaffolding branches that are even spaced at wide angles. Care needs to be taken with this type of pear tree to avoid narrow crotches. If this is not done, the limbs will eventually split away from the trunk. This will destroy the tree's shape and make it prone to disease.

While pruning, you also need to remove limbs that are upright, crossing and crowded. Suckers need to be removed to avoid them turning into woody, weak wood.

Pear trees bloom and bear fruit on the sharp, short spurs that grow between its branches. Thin the spurs regularly. Older spurs should be removed occasionally to be replaced by more vigorous young ones. If you end up with too many small fruits set in one year, thin them out to let the remaining fruit grow large and not have to compete for nutrients.

It is generally best to prune pear trees late in the summer. You will stimulate the least amount of re-growth by pruning after the trees have finished growing for the year and have hardened their wood. If you live in an area where there's a chance for winter damage, wait to prune until late winter.

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Question:
We have two sugar time crabapple trees that are nearly nine feet tall. When is the best time to health prune?

Answer:
The best time to prune your crab apple trees is in the early summer. Shearing them heavily at this time will encourage thick bottom growth.

During your pruning, cut back the crossing branches and suckers. By thinning out crossing and rubbing branches, you let in more sunlight and reduce competition for nutrients. Suckers need to be removed because they tend to grow into weak, woody and unproductive growth.

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Question:
I have a small fig tree. Should I screen this in burlap for the winter? Last year was pretty cool with snow and ice. Last fall the tree was about 1 1/2 feet tall. This spring the original limbs were dead but we had new growth.

Answer:
Fig trees are very likely to drop their leaves and appear dead when they have been exposed to a sudden change in location or temperature. Like your tree, they usually respond well with new growth the next spring. In the spring, remove dead limbs that are not sprouting new leaves.

One option for protecting your fig tree from cold winter winds and ice is to keep it in a pot. This will allow you to move it into a garage or basement when the cold weather approaches. Growing the tree in a pot also helps to control the root and tree size.

I know it is possible to wrap fig trees in the winter, but you also have to be careful it doesn't get too warm inside the protection and start new growth before another cold spell hits.

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Question:
I have a full grown olive tree that I would like to shape, trim the top round, bottom flat, like a bowl upside down.. What tool would be best? Branches are less that a quarter-inch in diameter.

Answer:
To reach the tops of your trees I would recommend one of our long-reach pruners, as opposed to a pole saw. Since your branches aren't very thick, you'll get a cleaner cut and an easier cut with a long-reach pruner. Your delicate branches might not be sturdy enough to get a straight cut with a pole saw.

I would recommend cut-and-hold long-reach pruners. These pruners will hold onto the branches once they are cut, so they won't fall on top of you, risking injury.

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Question:
How do I prune and fertilize a peach tree? Has been producing small peaches for the past couple of years and seems to get covered with some sort of mold over the peaches.

Answer:
Peach trees need to be grown in a site with very well drained soil. Without proper drainage, your tree may suffer from crown rot. Peach trees grow best in a soil with 5.5 to 8.0 pH. Fertilize your peach tree in the spring and again in early summer with a 10-10-10 fertilizer. Keep your tree roots covered with mulch during the hot weather.

Peach trees should be pruned yearly to maintain an open center, to eliminate weak or misdirected branch growth. If the trees have experienced winter damage, prune off the damaged wood in the early spring. This will allow the wounds to close faster as growth begins. In the early spring you should also be able to see how many flower buds have survived the cold weather. Using thinning cuts also helps keep the center of the tree open. Be sure to thin the fruit on the trees to about six inches between fruits. Wait to thin the fruit until June to see what the tree naturally drops itself. This thinning increases the size and quality of the fruit and it helps prevent limbs from breaking under the heavy weight of the fruit. Always prune before early summer and start minimizing your watering at this time, too. You don't want to stimulate new growth on the tree that will not have time to harden before winter.

Don't let these peach trees branch too close to the ground. The best fruit often grows at the top of the trees. Keep the tops of trees low, so they are easily accessible.

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Question:
Last fall, a storm with high winds broke off a branch (the major branch on one side) from our pear tree. Should have done something to the stump of the branch?

Answer:
Your pear tree has probably healed itself, but broken branches are ideal locations for diseases and insects to infest your tree. To be on the safe side, you might want to make a clean cut where the branch broke off.

Depending on how much of the branch is left, cut off several parts of the branch before making the cut just outside of the branch collar - never flush with the trunk. Never leave a stub on your trees.

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Question:
When is the best time to prune Bartlett pear trees? How is it done?

Answer:
The best time to do major pruning on your pear trees is during the dormant season, before active growth begins in the spring. Generally, it is not recommended to heavily prune pear trees. The more you prune, the greater the chance that fire blight will develop (the leaves and branches will look as if they have been burned by fire), and it delays fruit production.

Set a three-year plan to get your pear trees into the shape and size you want. Start with a plan for your pruning project - envision how you want the trees to look. The first year remove limbs that are diseased, damaged, upright, crossing and crowded. Suckers need to be removed as soon as you notice them to avoid them turning into woody, weak wood. The next year, thin out the tree some more and bring down some of the height. The third year, thin out the trees some more and cut down to the desired height.

Always remove pruned branches from the area of your other trees. Burning the branches is a great way to prevent the spread of disease and infestation.

You can avoid ending up with too much fruit that goes to waste by thinning the fruit on the branches after it has set. Hand thin the fruits to leave at least 5 inches between the fruit. This will reduce your harvest and increase the health of the remaining fruit. It is especially a good idea to thin fruit on the high, hard-to-reach branches.

This website may be helpful. It includes diagrams showing where to cut.

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Question:
How do you prune a pomegranate tree?

Answer:
The pruning your pomegranate tree is going to need most is to remove suckers from the crown of the tree. This is important especially when the tree is young in order to maintain a strong single trunk. Once the main trunk is developed not much formal pruning needs to be done, besides removing the suckers all the way down to the ground. Be sure to remove any dead or damaged branches. It is also beneficial to occasionally thin out branches to allow sunlight to reach the inner branches. I have even read a recommendation to prune 25% of old wood down to the ground each year. Prune your tree when it is dormant, in the winter.

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