" Blog da Horta Biológica: How To Do Summer Pruning - Simple and Practical Guide For Green Pruning

How To Do Summer Pruning - Simple and Practical Guide For Green Pruning

In this post we are going to talk about summer pruning, also known as green pruning, on fruit trees. The trees we pruned for this post were citrus trees. The principles of green pruning are the same for all trees but it is important to know that citrus trees require less pruning than other trees. If you cut too much they will take a long time to recover and bear fruit again. Citrus trees are perennial, which means that they are evergreen and their leaves don't fall, so they don't have a real period of dormancy. The ideal time for pruning citrus trees should be somewhere between harvesting and the new flowering period, which happens during the spring. Still, green pruning can be done. Although there are several types of pruning, which we will talk about in another post, green pruning must be very light, just to do a little cleaning to the tree. Whether your trees are young or mature you must keep an eye on them to make sure they keep productive and healthy.

We've created this green pruning guide so you can prune your trees in a safe and careful way. For a better understanding make sure you watch our educational video at the end of this post.

When To Do Green Pruning?

Although  we have mentioned that it's done in the summer, there's another curiosity. Some people organize their agricultural tasks according to the moon phases. This is an ancient practice. Usually we don't do it, except for pruning. Sap flows low during the last quarter of the moon, so your trees are less likely to lose sap after cutting. Pruning should be avoided on rainy days, as well as in the early hours of the day before dew as dissipated, to avoid the accumulation of water on the cuts, which could cause the appearance of fungi.

What To Use For Cutting?

In a pruning work, depending on the thickness and height of the branches, you might need these tools: 
  • Hand pruner
  • Lopper
  • Handsaw
  • Telescopic pruner for high trees
  • Chainsaw or reciprocating saw for thicker branches
Bearing in mind that this is a light pruning, you might only need pruning shears and, eventually, the handsaw.

Here are some links for you to see the tools in case you don't know them.

Hand Pruner 

Other Important Materials

  • Gardening gloves
  • Ethyl alcohol and a cloth for disinfecting the material

The pruning material must always be sharpened and disinfected before using on each tree, in order to prevent a diseased tree from passing diseases and pests onto other healthy trees. 

What To Cut?

It is always important to remember that green pruning is not a major pruning work, but only a small cleaning work of the tree. Before cutting, you must examine the tree to identify:

  • Branches growing inside the crown
  • Intersecting branches
  • Dead, diseased, and damaged branches and leaves
  • Sucker branches originating from the trunk and the rootstock 
  • Branches that are too long and you might want to shorten

Why To Cut?

Branches that grow inside the crown have to be cut to open the center of the tree. Excess of branches makes each of the branches weaker. By choosing the best and cutting the weakest, the branches will be stronger to support the weight of the fruits. In addition to this, more space is created for better air circulation, for sunlight to reach all fruits, and for having easier access to the inside of the crown in case of spraying against pests and diseases. Anyways, an airy, lit crown helps a lot to prevent the formation of fungi and, consequently, to reduce the need for spraying. Cutting the branches that grow inside also allows to choose and balance the shape of the crown over time. Remember that horizontal branches are more productive, so try to cut vertical branches instead.

Intersecting branches compete with each other and impair both growth and fruiting of each other. Those growing towards the center of the crown should be cut and those growing outside should be favored, as they will contribute to the formation of the crown and will be more productive for their fruits will have better sun exposure.

Dead, diseased, and damaged branches are also useless. Damaged branches can be a gateway for pests and diseases, so cut them right away.

Suckers are very vigorous, vertical, little branched, and can sprout from both trunk and rootstock.

  • Suckers branches from the trunk are useless and hinder the growth of the tree. The tree needs one sturdy trunk and these sprouts consume nutrients, reducing the productivity of the branches.
  • Sucker branches from the rootstock, just like the ones sprouting from the trunk, reduce fruit yield. They grow extremely fast and suck the nutrients that should be consumed by the bearing part of the trees.  

Branches that are too long become weaker and risk breaking when supporting the weight of the fruit. Cutting these branches makes them stronger while allowing you to define the layout of the crown.

How To Cut?

Suckers can be gently removed by hand if they are small and newly formed or with pruning shears if they have woody stems.

Other branches must be cut at the branch collar swelling, that is, the swollen part where the branch meets the trunk. This is a favorable area for healing. If you cut it right and the collar is left intact, the wound will seal more effectively. This is also crucial to protect the trees against pests and diseases. For thinner branches use the hand pruner. For thicker branches use the lopper.

It is also common to find healthy and dead twigs on the same branch. In this case, cut the dead twig back where it meets the branch.

The ideal cut must be precise and carried out at once, with an angle of approximately 45º. Doing this avoids the accumulation of water, which can cause the rotting of the branch and the appearance of fungi.

After pruning, a sealing paste should be applied to the cuts, so that they heal more quickly and are not exposed to the elements that can cause diseases. Use a paintbrush and apply the paste over the stub and around the edges to ensure it covers the whole cut area.

In our video you can see exactly how to cut and the quantity of branches that were removed from one single tree.

The summer is out there, so...get to work! :)

VIDEO - How To Make Summer Pruning

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