Pruning My Tree Before I Put On the Cover?
Pruning a fruit tree allows you to shorten the tree so that you can pick the fruit easily and safely. The less time you spend climbing a ladder, the more time you can spend picking fruit. You may want to prune to open up the tree canopy so the person picking can reach all the fruit in the tree easily. Opening the canopy up also allows sunlight to reach more of the leaves, allowing photosynthesis to occur throughout the tree. Photosynthesis is the process that feeds the fruit making it grow big and tasty.
Adding a Kootenay Cover to the fruit growing process means you will want to make the tree short enough to put the cover on correctly. Generally, if you can reach the fruit safely, you can put a cover on the tree easily.
Also, to prolong the life of the cover, you should prune to remove any sharp ends of branches or limbs poking out of the canopy where they could damage the cover.
Different kinds of trees require different approaches to pruning. Apple and pear trees grow their fruit on fruiting spurs which grow on three+ year old branches and stems. In pruning, you want to be sure to leave enough of these small branches and small fruiting spurs in place. Stone fruits, such as cherries, peaches, apricots, etc., grow fruit on young wood, typically 1-3 years old, with stems instead of fruiting spurs. Trim back stone fruit trees each year so there is room for new wood to grow. This new wood is where new fruit can grow at a height you can reach. If you do not prune, the new fruiting wood continues to get higher and higher until only the birds can reach it.
The time of year for optimal pruning varies by the type of tree and your climate. Check with experts in your area for more details.
If you need to dramatically shorten the height of a tree, you will probably cause a lot of vigorous growth in the season immediately following your pruning. This growth is caused by an unbalance between the size of the roots of the tree and the size of the above ground trunks and limbs. Continue to prune the tree every year to keep the size down. Many orchardists prune vigorous trees in the mid-summer to remove some of the new growth. This mid-season pruning helps contain the tree and keep it a managable size from year to year. As you prune, open up the tree to allow sunlight to enter the whole canopy. Shape the tree to look how you want it. You will be very pleased with the fruit that shows up.
Some growers worry about shocking and killing a heavily overgrown tree by over pruning. Generally, you can shorten the tree by 30% a year or more and the tree will survive and recover. In many years of pruning overgrown trees, I have yet to see one die from over-pruning.