Pruning fruit trees?

Fukuoka advocated a natural system of farming. The citrus trees in his orchards were not ordinarily pruned (if at all).

Fukuoka said that if you prune a tree rather than let it it take its natural shape, then further pruning, pesticides, and other unnatural measures become necessary in order to manage the tree’s departure from its natural state. He learned this lesson as a young man when he tried to let his father’s citrus grove - - whose trees had been meticulously pruned in the shape of sake cups - - revert to a natural, self-managed state. The trees succumbed entirely to pests and disease.

While I am confident there are cultivars that have been bred and/or damaged in such a way as to require pruning for their convenient harvest or health, I am considerably less interested in growing them.

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Oh, interesting!

This seems like something that would be an excellent discussion in its own right. Do you want to start a thread talking about what Fukuoka had to say about fruit tree pruning?

I pruned thousands of seed grown trees. A big part of our selection criteria involved selecting for trees that did not require pruning because of their natural growth habit.

Some trees tended towards growing straight up, making harvest difficult.

Some trees grew with narrow forks, making the trunk/branches susceptible to failure during winds, fruit load, or snow.

Some trees spread out, and stayed low without pruning.

Some trees took that to an extreme, and laid their branches onto the ground.

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Thanks for starting this thread because i also have been wondering about this as i am starting lots of tree seeds!

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Oh, that makes sense! Of course growth habit would vary within any given species.

Planting seeds from fruits grown on trees with growth habits you like sounds like a great idea.

One thing I have noticed in grafted (purchased) trees is that many lower limbs have been sacrificed to force the tree to grow up. Given their own inclination, I think many seed grown trees would revert to a bush form.

I have two grafted fruit trees I bought last year that are currently leafing out. The peach tree (which is covered in beautiful flowers, yay!) has decided to poke out a new branch a foot above the ground. Cool, looks great to me! The apple tree is poking out three new branches, one of which is only a few inches above the ground.

If I had deer, I wouldn’t want fruiting branches that low. Since I don’t, yes! Please! Grow like a bush, with fruiting branches all the way up the trunk! That seems great!

Both of them are doing that above the graft, which is relevant with grafted fruit trees.

If my seedlings choose to do that and have fruit hanging just a few inches above the ground, awesome! I’d rather the fruit not touch the ground because bugs will eat them if they do, but other than that, the trees are welcome to fruit as low as they want to.

Hi again!

I just barely found this video:

At around the 13:00 mark, Stefan Sobkowiak talks about the advantages of NOT pruning, and that made me go, “Ohhhhhhhhh!” I think he must be describing what Fukuoka experienced with his fruit trees!

What Stefan says is that when you prune a tree, the tree thinks it’s being eaten, and it’ll put more energy into vegetative growth the next year. When you don’t, it’ll fruit earlier, and it’ll bear more fruit, and it’ll stay shorter.

He also recommends bending over the central trunk to turn it into a fruiting branch, instead of pruning it off. That will keep it from putting up suckers. That sounds like an awesome idea to me.

My next-door neighbor’s apricot tree and apple tree are both lovely, and bear lots and lots of fruit every year, but she has to prune off hundreds of vertical suckers at the top of both every year. I thought that was inevitable if you want to keep the tree short enough to harvest. But . . . maybe it’s not!

It would be really cool if all you have to do is train branches to bend downwards more, and make cuts only when you need to to make sure the trunk has enough airflow to dry off sometimes and therefore stay healthy when it’s snowed on.