How to Prune Plum Trees
In this article you will find out how to prune plum trees. One of several articles on how to prune fruit trees. Pruning plum trees is straightforward, once the trees are established, and consists mainly of thinning out overcrowded wood. Some rather more detailed pruning is, however, necessary in the early years, in order to build up a suitable framework.
How to prune plum trees - Maiden tree
If a maiden tree is planted, that is, a tree within one year of budding or grafting, pruning may be carried out in the Spring, after deciding on tree form. Generally plums will be grown as half-standards having a main stem about 4 ft. in length, before the branch system.
An open centre is aimed at, the main branch system forming the outside, with young wood filling in the interior. This method of forming the half standard tree can also be used for Apples and Pears.
Assuming a maiden tree has been purchased, this would be planted in the Autumn and, later on, when the tree has settled down, and you are wondering how to prune plum trees, it should be pruned to a bud, 9 to 12 inches above the height of the lowest branch desired.
In the following season shoots will grow from buds below the top, and the most suitable are left, ensuring that they are well spaced and at a wide angle to the stem. Other shoots are removed, leaving about 5 or so which will form the main branch system.
The top bud will grow strongly; this can be offset by making a nick below it with a knife, forcing more growth into the lower buds. Wide angled branches can be encouraged by making small notches in the bark above selected buds; the topmost shoot can be removed later. Any growth arising below the position of the lowest branch should merely be shortened for the first year or two before removing, as they assist in thickening the stem.
The selected branches are subsequently pruned to a suitable outward pointing bud, during the first year or two, one third to one half of the new wood being removed; afterwards this is reduced to mere tipping which is discontinued altogether eventually. The tree will consist of 6 to 7 well-spaced main branches, growing from them and lateral growths which will form the bulk of the fruiting wood.
How to prune plum trees - 2 or 3-year-old If the tree has been purchased as a 2 or 3-year-old, it is advisable to defer pruning for one year after planting. The branch system of such a tree will already have been formed. After the framework of the tree has been formed, subsequent pruning will consist of cutting out dead and diseased wood, badly placed wood crossing, or too upright growth, and ensuring that the growth remaining is well spaced.
How to prune plum trees - Drooping varieties
Certain varieties have a drooping habit. Although during the early years this factor need not influence pruning unduly, as the tree becomes established the drooping tendency will be more pronounced.
It will be necessary to prune branch leaders to an upward-pointing bud, and not to an outward one, as in upright growing varieties. Similarly, lower branches will hang down, and may have to be shortened eventually to a more suitable subsidiary branch.
How to prune plum trees - Silver Leaf Disease
This serious disease of Plums enters the tissues through open wounds and cuts. It is able to do so during the winter and most readily infects wood through large cuts which expose the heart. During the formation period of the tree, pruning can be carried out in the early Spring, as cuts are relatively small.
On established trees, however, it is better to defer pruning until late Spring or Summer, and to perform this operation during dry weather, especially where large wounds are made.
The natural gums exuded at this time assist healing. Broken branches should be sawn off neatly, and all large wounds protected with white lead paint. Always use a sharp, curved blade knife, or a good pair of secateurs, for pruning. Avoid "jagged" cuts, which can lead to damage, and do not cut too closely to the topmost bud.
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