Although there may not be much to do in the winter garden, February can be an important and critical time if growing and caring for fruit crops. So much has to be done each year during this month to ensure fruit trees and small fruits grow and produce successfully. The number one chore is pruning. (photo credit: Andrew Butko)
Pruning fruit crops each year will result in healthy plants and better production of quality fruit. Once fruit trees and small fruit crops have been planted, training must begin next. Since fruits are being grown for the production of food, proper pruning is needed to maximize production, and to make sure the plant is strong enough to physically hold up all the weight of the fruit. Young plants are typically pruned and trained for the first several years primarily to develop the plants' proper structure and size. Once flowering and fruiting begins, usually in the third or fourth year, some additional pruning is done to help prevent the breakage of limbs.
For established fruit trees, the first pruning cuts are to remove any sucker growth that may have sprouted below the graft. Next, all diseased and damaged wood is taken out. Then look at the fruit tree and cut out all growth that crosses or rubs other branches. Since fruit develops best where it gets adequate sunlight and air, areas that are thick in growth or crowded must also be thinned, or opened up, to allow more light and air movement. Lastly, prune and trim back any other growth down to a more reachable, comfortable size.
Small fruit crops such as muscadine grapes, blueberries, and blackberries require more specific pruning techniques. For more information, contact the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
Willie Datcher, Regional Extension Agent (home office - Greene County)
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