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Book review: Growing Fruit Trees

One of my Christmas presents was Growing Fruit Trees: Novel Concepts and Practices for Successful Care and Management, edited by Jean-Marie Lespinasse and Evelyne Leterme. It was exactly the book I wanted, which I ended up with because I bought it myself, wrapped it myself, and told my daughter this was her present to me. It was 350 pages, which I read in full between Christmas and today. Great stuff! Especially relevant because I now have 80 fruit and nut trees on my property and about half of them are coming into their productive years. The other half are new and I want to make sure I do them right.

The book is divided into fifteen chapters, one about each type of fruit (a chapter on almonds, one on apples, etc.) I am growing all of these except the chestnut, olive, quince, and walnut. Eleven out of fifteen are relevant. I took notes.

In general:

  • Don't prune during the winter or dormant phase because pruning scars take longer to heal, providing more time for bacteria to enter.

  • Prune if possible by breaking off branches or spurs. If using clippers, dip clippers in a bleach solution between trees to minimize bacterial transfer.

  • White latex paint mixed to half strength should be applied to trunks up to first scaffolding branches to minimize sunscald.

  • Quit cutting off spurs. That's where the flowers and fruit grow from on all stone fruits, apples, and pears. (Unless you want to thin fruit pre-emptively by cutting back spurs and preventing fruiting in that area.)

  • Most fruiting buds are set/grown/developed the previous year and then burst/flower/emerge the next year after set.

  • Fruit trees need 2 inches of water per week, or 12ish gallons.

  • Horizontal branches tend to fruit more and grow less vegetatively.

  • Related: Almonds, apricots, cherries, peaches, and plums.

  • Related: Apples, pears, and quince.


  • Don't prune unless tree gets overcrowded and busy. Prune to stimulate new growth.

  • Don't thin fruit


  • Don't prune tips of branches. That's where the fruit and flowers form. Remove entire branches if needed for light penetration or height control.

  • Bend branches down to horizontal if possible instead of pruning them out. Fruit weight should complete the bending process as the branch matures.

  • Thin down to one fruit per cluster.

  • Remove fruits at the end of branches if necessary due to fruit load on branches.

  • The bigger the knob on the end of branches and spurs, the bigger the fruit it will yield.


  • Prune into vase shape.

  • Bending and arching of branches is preferable to pruning them out.

  • Fruit is sweeter when spring is warm.

  • Better quality fruit develops on spurs rather than on long branches.

  • Cutting the tip off a long branch will encourage flowering and fruit along the branch, which would otherwise have been devoted to foliage.


  • Prune

  • A hot summer causes doubled, weird fruit the following year.

  • Fruit does not continue to ripen after picking.

  • Fruit forms on buds at the base of 2-3 year old wood, and on spurs, which take 2-3 years to form.


  • Absolutely require 24" of penetrable topsoil, which is why I don't have any.

  • Contain no gluten.

  • They are very high in moisture and low in fat, especially for a nut.


  • Purple figs are 'Mission' figs.

  • Hard to tell how to prune or maintain in an environment where I expect the trees to die back to the root every couple of years.


  • Prune in late winter, just before break of dormancy

  • Thin fruiting clusters on slow-growing vines; leave them intact for vigorous vines (so as to slow the growth of the vine).


  • The 'tree' is actually a big shrub.

  • Barcelona is not resistant to some kinds of blight, but some other hazelnut varieties are.

  • Hazelnut varieties vary a lot in growth, structure, vigor, and habit.

  • Hazelnuts flower in December and January, and are wind-pollinated.

  • Don't prune. Remove root suckers. Bend down overly-erect branches.


  • Absolutely must not have wet feet. Can't take the wind either. Which means they probably won't thrive or maybe even survive where I planted them.

  • The article was mostly about A. deliciosa instead of the hardy A. arguta that I have. Not sure if any of the pruning/training information relates to the A. arguta. But basically, thin fruits from the fruiting lateral canes as needed to have no more than 4 fruit per cane and keep the whole vine from being overloaded.


  • Die when exposed to 16 F or less, which is why they don't make it here in Oklahoma.

  • Grow to 16-32 feet tall, which is why they don't work for containers.

  • Need 5' or so of deep soil, even assuming one overcame the two issues above.

  • No olives for me!


  • Fruit on one year old wood (so last year's new growth).

  • When thinning, remove the fruit at the ends of the branches in preference to that near the trunk.

  • A plum rootstock is best for heavy/clay soils and/or soils that do not drain well in winter.

  • Don't bend limbs on peaches. Either prune or leave alone.

  • Spray fungicide treatments in January or February to fight peach leaf curl. This is pretty much necessary.

  • Thin fruits as they get walnut-sized. Leave one fruit per six inches. Break up clustered fruit and leave only one fruit per cluster.

  • Prune epicormic branches only, unless I have a really vigorous tree I need to slow down (ha, yeah, right). Prune in summer.


  • Year one - cut short. Remove all branching on the bottom third of the tree-to-be. At the end of the year, apply spreaders to pull the existing branches horizontal. Do not bend under horizontal.

  • Vertical branches are nearly always vegetation without fruit set capability.

  • Prune out any vertical branches that compete with the central axis.

  • The central axis should be bent (not cut) when it reaches the top of desired height.

  • For a vase structure, never allow a central axis to grow and don't bend the branches horizontal, but only to 45 degrees. A horizontal branch won't grow much (but will fruit more).

  • Prune if needed to suppress growth - late in summer, or in winter.


  • Prune-plums tend to be less juicy, firmer, and higher in sugar than normal table plums. Prune-plums are eaten fresh in many areas and are called 'sugar plums'.

  • Prune to shape as solaxe (one, 'sole' axes, central leader structure) or vase shape - either works, no preference as far as the tree cares. For either, develop scaffold branches and bend to horizontal. Cut epicormic branches and make sure in all cases to thin enough vegetation so all branches get light.

  • Plums are actually fairly tolerant of heavy or clay soils, which makes them the first thing I've read yet in this book that is supposed to be able to handle the soil I have.


  • "Due to it's sharp and bitter flavor, it is not eaten in its raw state." Oh, well, there's why I don't grow it!

  • Very susceptible to fire blight and a bunch of other stuff.


  • High temperatures (over 100 F) during fruit growth cause black spotting on kernels.

  • Trees do not have tap roots, instead having a large, diffuse root system.

  • They have a lot of pests.

  • I'm not growing these either. Mostly because I don't like walnuts.



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