I took a January trip to Annie’s Annuals in Richmond for a talk by Phil Pursel from Dave Wilson’s Nursery. His talk was on “fruit tree frenzy.”
The talk and demonstration were on pruning for the home gardener. It was suggested that home gardeners and growers keep their trees from 6 to 8 feet tall for safety and easier picking of the fruit. At these heights it helps avoid the use of very tall ladders, which could help to reduce accidents. It also helps make the fruit at the top of the tree that you never seem able to reach, reachable.
The pruning demonstration for the home gardener included a fruitless weeping Santa Rosa plum. This tree was pruned only to keep its shape, as the beauty of this tree is its weeping look.
A fig tree that can grow 10 to 30 feet tall was pruned from about a six-foot tree to three feet. Few branches were left, because this is a vigorous growing tree. An apricot with only a main stem was pruned to about four feet near a budding spot. By pruning it this way, it should branch out at this point.
A “fruit salad” tree was next. This tree got everyone’s attention because it had grafts of a Gold Dust peach, an Elberta peach, an Independence nectarine and a Blenheim apricot. The two peaches and nectarine were pruned slightly, but because the Blenheim apricot is so dominate it was pruned harder than the other three fruits. We were told that if the apricot was not pruned heavily at this time, the “fruit salad” tree would become an apricot tree.
If you would like a “fruit salad” tree you could do a cherry tree. The one shown in the photo has been grafted with a Black Tartarian, Mazzard C (root stock), Lapins and a Van cherry. Like the other trees, this one should be pruned six to eight feet.
The speaker did suggest if you really want to try a “fruit salad” tree try apples instead of stone fruit as they are easier to make a “fruit salad” tree than stone fruit.
Some say when you buy a bare root fruit tree, take it home and before planting measure the height to your knee and prune it off there. This is a hard thing for home gardeners to do, buy a tree then prune it way down. It does, however, help keep the tree shorter and easier to harvest. The tree grows out in more of a vase-like shape and gets stronger. It also has a better canopy as it grows.
We learned that when two fruits are cross-pollinated from the same species or genus, such as the pluot, which is a plum and apricot, it can take years before this new fruit is produced and ready for market.
Pursel’s parting words to home gardeners and urban farmers were to encourage them to keep all fruit trees at six to eight feet. The practical method of pruning to keep trees under 12 feet is summer pruning. Home gardeners are responsible for the size a tree grows. It was also suggested that water and fertilizer influences tree growth and fruit trees do not need a lot of water or nitrogen.
Betty Victor is a Master Gardener with the University of California Cooperative Extension office in Fairfield. If you have gardening questions, call the Master Gardeners office at 784-1322.