The No. 1 chore is pruning.
Once fruit trees and small fruits have been planted, training must begin.
Since fruits are being grown for the production of food, all growth must be pruned properly to maximize production, and to make sure the plant is strong enough to hold up all the weight of the fruit.
Young plants are typically pruned and trained for the first several years, primarily to develop the plants’ proper shape and size.
Once flowering and fruiting begins and is allowed, usually in the third or fourth year, some additional pruning is done to help prevent the breakage of limbs.
For established fruit trees, the first pruning cuts should be to remove any sucker growth that may have sprouted below the graft.
Next, all diseased and damaged wood is taken out.
Then as you look at the fruit tree, cut out all growth that crosses or rubs other branches. Since fruit develops where it gets adequate sunlight and air, areas that are thick in growth or crowded must be thinned or opened up to allow more light and air movement.
Lastly, prune and trim back any other growth down to a more reachable, comfortable size.
Small fruit crops such as muscadine grapes, blueberries and blackberries require more specific pruning techniques.
Shane Harris is a Regional Extension Agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System serving East Central Alabama.