Plant and prune fruit trees now

Even though the weather may still be nasty, early March through early April is the best time to plant fruit trees. University of Kentucky fruit specialist Dr. John Strang recommends buying bare-root fruit trees and encourages the use of dwarf fruit trees for homeowners. Dwarf trees are slightly more expensive than larger trees, but they bear more quickly, are easier to prune and pick and require less space than standard or   semi-dwarf trees. Dwarf apples and pears should be supported to keep them from toppling over during storms when they are laden with fruit. For a list of disease resistant apple trees, call Extension at 633-4593 or email walt.reichert@uky.edu.

 

March is also the best time to finish pruning chores – before buds break.

Dr. Strang recommends pruning the oldest trees first and the younger ones last. He also recommends holding off on pruning peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots (the stone fruits) until later in March or early April to make sure the coldest days of winter have passed. Stone fruits are prone to dieback if they are pruned just before a cold snap hits. Many people avoid pruning because they fear they will harm the tree. Fact is, not pruning at all is far more harmful to fruit trees than pruning too much. Extension’s publication “Growing Fruit at Home in Kentucky” is  a free and helpful guide to growing fruit trees -- and pruning fruit trees correctly.