As spring approaches, berry plants, fruit trees and grapes need attention to perform their best. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you get out the pruning shears and loppers.
As a rule, berry plants such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and currants produce best on young wood. Cutting away the less productive portions of a plant allows more water and nutrients to enter remaining strong buds, stems and branches. Pruning berry plants means removing, shortening and thinning.
Weak or slender wood bears little fruit. Long unbranched stems grow out of reach and produce few fruiting side shoots. Crowded stems are also poor producers.
Fruit trees also need attention at this time of year. Uniform branch spacing is important. Remove crowded branches, crossing branches and ones with narrow crotch angles. Water sprouts, the long unbranches stems that often grow straight up should also be removed. Shorten long branches in the main portion of your tree to encourage slower-growing spurs that bear the flowers and fruit. Do not remove all the twig growth from the main stems and branches or you may have problems with sunscald on the bark.
Grapes grow from shoots or buds on canes or branches grown the previous year. Some research suggests that heavy pruning is associated with high sugar content in grapes, while light pruning that leaves many buds on each arm or cane is associated with high juice yields. Whatever method you use keep these points in mind:
To go into more detail, I suggest that the home gardener read up on fruit production tips. Alternatively, “Fruit Production for the Home Gardener” is available from Penn State for $12 plus shipping and handling. Call 865-6713 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.