Snip Snip: Which Fruit Trees to Prune in the Summer

For plants, summer is the time to party. Flowers blossom, fruits grow ripe, and insects pay their little visits.

But sometimes the best way to party is by cutting back and letting the best parts shine. If you've ever tried pruning fruit trees in summer, you know what we're talking about. With the right trees and the proper technique, pruning during the summer months can lead to healthier trees, better risk management, and more colorful fruit.

You may be thinking, "But you're supposed to prune in the winter!" This is true for some cases, but it's not definite. With a little help navigating the do's and don'ts of pruning in the summer, you'll be an expert hot-weather pruner in no time.

Don't worry, we'll walk you through everything you need to know. Here's our guide on summertime pruning:

Which Trees to Prune in the Summertime

Summer is a great pruning time for lots of fruit trees. As you'll learn later in this post, if you've got apricot and cherry trees, you might want to prune them in the summer when it's drier. Peach and apple trees can also benefit from a proper summer pruning.

One advantage of pruning a peach tree in the summer is that it can help you get redder fruit. You'll need to prune in the few weeks before harvest to get this effect while minimizing the risk of hurting the harvest. Try it out to get those juicy red peaches you've been dreaming of!

For apple trees, summertime pruning can be a way of letting the best branches shine. Each branch of an apple will do its best fruiting in a 3-5 year period before slowing down. If you wait until summer to prune, you can easily see which branches are flourishing and keep them for next year's harvest.

And regardless of the type of tree, you should be keeping an eye on signs that you should prune soon. Even if it's not the typical tree to prune in the summer, you should consider doing it if you notice these signs:

  • Hazardous (broken, dead, weak, diseased, or cracked) branches
  • Parts that are growing around power lines
  • Dense growth
  • Unbalanced or tangled branches

All of these signs point to possible hazards that you should eliminate in order to ensure healthy growth for your tree.

If there are any branches that might fall or cause problems for the rest of the tree, these are good targets for pruning. Growth around power lines is dangerous and might need professional help. And dense, unbalanced, or tangled growth are all things that could damage your tree in the long term. 

Pay Attention to Individual Needs

Some trees are actually better off with a wintertime pruning, during the dormant season. The trees branches are easier to access during this time, and you'll be able to reduce the chance of branches breaking off during winter storms. Pruning before springtime also sets the stage for a good growing season.

But this doesn't mean you should only prune in the winter.

While pruning during the dormant season is generally a good idea, what's important is what your trees need in the moment. If you notice that one of your trees is getting too big or that it has some hazardous branches, you don't need to wait until the dormant season to prune. And if summer happens to be the most convenient time to prune your trees, you should go for it.

Pruning during the summer can be safe, effective, and a great way to take care of your trees.

When Not to Prune

Don't prune when it's rainy—see the next section for more on that—and take care not to over-prune. You might get a little carried away trying to make your trees as healthy as possible, but overdoing it can cause a lot more harm than good.

It's better to under-prune than over-prune, so go a little at a time. Think of it like watering a houseplant, or even frying up some vegetables. Go slow and check frequently, because there's no reverse button on over-pruning.

Avoid Rainy Weather By Pruning Fruit Trees in Summer

There are some tree species that should be pruned in the summer rather than the winter or spring. These include apricot and cherry trees, as well as their kin. While most fruit trees are traditionally pruned in the dormant season, these guys should wait until summer if possible.

This is because apricot and cherry trees are prone to fungal and bacterial diseases. This means that they should be as strong and intact as possible during rainy and stormy weather. Any exposed wounds in a rainstorm can lead to infections that can harm and even kill the tree.

The wounds that are exposed after you prune an apricot or cherry tree can cause infections like these, so you should aim to prune when you're not expecting rain for a while. It's impossible to predict the weather with 100% accuracy, but you'll have a better shot at a dry recovery period during the summer months.

Know Why You're Pruning

Some people consider summer the "off-season" for pruning because it's traditional to prune during the winter. If you're growing apricot or cherry trees, you might consider the winter your pruning "off-season."

Whatever the season may be, there are times when you might prune even if it's not the most ideal time of year.

Just make sure you calculate the risks accordingly. If you feel like you're risking the health of your tree, you might want to consult with a professional to see whether an off-season pruning will be worth it in the end.

There's a myriad of reasons why you might want to prune your fruit tree, and you should consider what goal you have in mind. This should help guide you when you're trying to decide whether to prioritize the reason or the season.

If you want to prune for safety reasons, it might be a good idea to prune your tree right away.

Dead branches that look ready to fall can be a hazard not only to your tree, but to the surrounding vegetation, structures, animals, and people. Similarly, if you want to prune your tree because it's starting to grow around a power line, you should act sooner rather than later. Remember to contact an expert for this, as it could be dangerous and inconvenient if anything goes wrong.

Some reasons for pruning are not so urgent, meaning you can wait until the optimal time. These include general upkeep, increased fruit production, and higher quality yields. All of these pruning goals are ones that you can plan in advance so they fall at the perfect times each year.

Call An Expert

Pruning may seem like a great DIY project, but it can lead to irreversible damage if you aren't sure what you're doing. A better place to start would be trimming, which you can think of as a milder form of pruning.

When you're trimming a tree or other plant, it's relatively straightforward to know where to cut. Here, you're just focusing on the overgrown parts of the plant, and you're not cutting that much anyway. You can trim for aesthetic reasons or for your tree's health, but either way, the risks are small.

If you're looking for something to do on your own and you're not a certified arborist, you might want to stick with trimming for now. Pruning is a more in-depth process, and it takes a good amount of expertise to know how to cut a big chunk away without harming that tree's health.

There are some cases where calling a professional is more of a must. These include very tall trees and trees that are growing near power lines.

In these cases, it's not just the tree's health you have to worry about. Climbing up to tall heights and cutting around electrical wiring is a serious hazard, and it's not something you should risk your own health over.

And calling a professional isn't just about safety! A tree expert can also give you crucial tips on landscaping and yearly planning. Ask them about their experience in the area to learn how to make your fruit trees thrive.

Final Word

Pruning fruit trees in summer is completely possible, and in some cases even recommended. If you've got an apricot, cherry, peach, or apple tree to take care of, or if you want to cut away a dangerous branch, summer pruning might be the way to go. Use these tips to prune better and smarter in the summertime.

For more wisdom on taking care of the trees in your life, check out the rest of our blog! And if you're interested in talking to one of our certified experts about any tree or landscaping questions you might have, just let us know. We'd love to hear from a fellow tree enthusiast.

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