Prune fruit trees and grape vines by tidying up dead and weak branches before they break dormancy. Severe pruning results in more fruit and a stronger plant.
Once pruned, spray trees and vines with dormant oil to smother overwintering diseases and insects.
These two easy jobs ensure healthy, large and delicious fruit harvests later in the season.
Why Prune in Winter?
Greenery is gone so the branches are clearly visible. And the cold stops any bleeding of sap from fresh cuts.
Have the Right Tool:
Use the right tool for each branch. Use your hand pruner to remove small branches up to the size of your middle finger, a lopper to cut branches 2-3” wide, a pruning saw for branches up to 6” in diameter, and finally, a chainsaw for large limbs.
How to Prune Fruit Trees:
- Remove dead, diseased and deformed branches. Cut away one of any cross branches.
- Cut away branches growing straight up, called water spouts.
- Create tree strength by cutting off branches that aren’t about 45 degrees in relation to the trunk.
How to Prune Grapes:
Don’t be afraid to prune grape vines. As a matter of fact, cut away up to 90 percent of last year’s growth. Grape plants are hearty and forgiving. If you make a mistake, you can fix it next year.
- The first year, reduce plant to the one strong vine and cut it back to 3 buds.
- When these shoots are 8-12″ long, choose the best one and cut the others off. Tie it up and keep it straight. This is your permanent trunk and will last for years, so do it right the first time.
- After this produces shoots, remove all vines except the strongest on either side of the main trunk. Cut back remaining branches 24”.
- Begin thinning shoots from these two branches as early as possible — in June or as soon as clusters can be seen.
How to Prune Raspberries and Blueberries:
- Prune dead canes to the ground. If you’re not sure if the cane is dead or not, nick it with your pruner. If you see green, it’s alive and should be left alone. If it’s dead, prune it to the ground.
- Remove any spindly or weak canes.
How to Apply Dormant Oil:
Dormant oils are refined from petroleum oil or made from cottonseed oil and help kill insects that lay dormant in the tree. Look for them at your local Home Depot Garden Center.
Important: Apply dormant oil only after pruning and only when temperatures are above freezing for 24 hours. This allows the oils to penetrate the hard shells and eggs of insects. If oil is applied at lower temperatures, it breaks down and doesn’t do the job.
Dilute oil with water according to bottle instructions for best results.