When it comes to fruit trees, plum trees are a great choice for most any yard. Unfortunately, they can also quickly overtake the yard if not pruned appropriately. In fact, plum trees will gain both height and width if they aren't managed, and that wild growth can actually cause fruit production and quality to suffer. By trimming your plum trees each year, you'll encourage new growth and fresh buds, which will help preserve the quality of the fruit. Here are a few tips to help you with proper trimming practices for your plum trees.
Before you trim your plum tree, you need to ensure your safety. Don't ever rely on an extension ladder or folding step stool to safely support you while you're trimming the tree. They aren't stable enough on uneven ground. Instead, you'll want a tripod ladder, sometimes called an orchard ladder. The tripod-style creates three anchor points to help keep you stable while you're trimming the tree.
- Start With Clean Shears – Keeping your pruning shears clean protects against the spread of diseases from one tree to another.
- Deal With Dead and Broken Limbs – Cut any dead branches away so that they don't damage the overall health of the tree. Make the cuts so that they are flush with the trunk of the tree. Don't leave any branch stubs behind, because they'll take a long time to heal over if the branch is dying. The longer it takes to heal, the more vulnerable the tree is to infection.
- Get Rid of Water Sprouts – Water sprouts are the branches that grow vertically from the trunk of the tree or from a primary branch. Cut them flush with the trunk or branch to eliminate them.
- Don't Seal the Cuts – Avoid painting over the cuts when you trim the branches. You might think that sealing them will protect the tree from infection, but leaving the cuts exposed to air will encourage them to heal more naturally.
- Focus On the Core Branches – Evaluate the overall condition of the tree to identify the strongest branches. You'll want to preserve those three or four of the strongest branches as the ones for the new season's growth. Cut away all of the other branches so that the tree can focus its growth efforts on those core branches.
If you're not confident in your pruning skills, you may want to talk with a tree trimming specialist about doing the job for you. He or she can ensure that the cuts are made correctly and your tree is healthy.