How to train and prune your home orchard

PNW 400
Last Updated: 
February 3, 2012

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Many homeowners who have inherited aging fruit or nut trees from previous owners must make a difficult decision: manage the trees or replace them. An easier decision is whether to go it alone or to take advantage of Oregon State University's Extension research and experience.

Detailed information and 17 illustrations from experts in the field are offered in a recently revised publication that brings horticulture expertise from OSU Extension to the people of Oregon. PNW 400, "Training and Pruning Your Home Orchard," is free online. Or, purchase the 12-page booklet for $3 plus shipping and handling (call 541-737-2513 or 800-561-6719).

The publication explains basic terminology and gives practical advice on tree pruning and training, such as how to save a limb's branch collar.

"When pruning, cut just outside the branch collar, which is the raised tissue at the base of every branch," said Jeff Olsen, OSU Extension horticulturist and one of the authors of the publication. "Branch collars have specialized cells that seal pruning wounds from wood rot fungi."

Besides general rules to train, prune and bend limbs, year-to-year instructions show how to plant new trees with three training systems: open-center, central-leader and the two-dimensional espalier.

The publication also gives specific advice on applying the basics to apple trees – fully dwarf, semi-dwarf, "spur type" and standard. Also included are training and pruning guidelines for apple, pear, sweet cherry, sour cherry, peach, prune, plum, apricot, fig, persimmon, walnut, hazelnut and chestnut trees.

The OSU publication also explains why trees need to be pruned or trained.

"Pruning fruit and nut trees reduces their size and makes them easier to spray and harvest," Olsen said. "Young trees can improve structural strength and induce branching. Mature trees can increase production and improve fruit quality."

If you train fruit trees from the beginning, they develop a strong structure, Olsen said, which helps bring a young tree into production at an early age.

Author: Judy Scott
Source: Jeff Olsen