As fruit harvesting tappers, pruning kicks into full swing. Here at the farm, our field crew always stays busy. Most fruit orchards are pruned mechanically, with what essentially looks like an overhead mower. As all of you know, everything at Frog Hollow is done by hand- pruning included. Different fruit trees call for different pruning methods. For instance, plum trees require very little pruning once they have matured.
Pruning plums actually encourages them to produce too many suckers, so it is recommended to just let them be. Apricot trees receive some “thinning” cuts, to keep the canopy from getting too dense. Peaches and nectarines on the other hand, require a heavy annual pruning.
At Frog Hollow, we use an “open vase” pruning technique on most of our stone fruit trees. This includes 3-5 main branches making a cup or “vase” shape, and the center of the canopy free of any branches. This allows sunlight to penetrate the middle of the tree, and aids in good airflow. In organic fruit production, air flow is a farmer’s best friend. When a canopy is too dense, fungal spores and pests proliferate- so “thinning” pruning is a farmer’s best friend. The vase shape is created by pruning when the tree is young, in the first 10 years of its life.
Once the trees are matured, pruning cuts are primarily for thinning the canopy, and reducing the tree height. Our fruit trees want to get tall, but our ladders go just so high. Our orchard ladders are 16 feet tall, this height is mandated by safety regulations, so each our fruit trees are topped at this height. Farms where fruit is NOT picked by hand, can allow their fruit trees to get tall. Not surprisingly, large trees produce more fruit, but hand picking at Frog Hollow means we have to keep our trees compact. If you see trees larger than 16 feet, like most you’ll see when driving through the Central Valley, you can assume they are mechanically harvested.
We would love to answer questions about pruning fruit trees at your house. If you have inquiries, feel free to email email@example.com.