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Winter pruning is essential for most fruit trees. Cutting branches during the vegetative rest period puts less stress on the plants.

The important thing, however, is to know how to seize the right moment, close to spring awakening. There are few trees, such as the apple tree, that do not fear dry pruning cuts at all, so winter pruning should generally be carried out in February or, in any case, by the first half of March.

Below we will see which February pruning operations are most suitable or, conversely, ill advised for some of the most common fruit trees, such as the olive tree (Oleaceae family), the persimmon or kaki (Ebenaceae family), peach and apricot trees (Drupaceae family), and the orange tree (citrus fruit of the Rutaceae family).


Climate and available tools: when to prune orchards and olive groves

It has been said that the period between the end of vegetative rest and the beginning of spring awakening is the best time to carry out winter pruning. This is true provided, of course, that the climatic conditions are normal.

Changes over the last decade, in fact, entail not only late frosts, which farmers were already used to coping with, but also increasingly frequent early spring blossoms, which more often than not do not produce much fruit.

In the latter case, it becomes necessary to postpone the pruning period and to intervene, if it is absolutely necessary and in any case with lighter cuts, almost exclusively on the branches that have not actually succeeded in bearing fruit, so as not to further compromise the harvest.

Timeliness and planning have become key words in pruning. As has equipping yourself with quality tools. Pruning branches is always a wound inflicted on the plant. If the cuts are clean and precise, respect the bark collar, and are angled to avoid harmful water stagnation, the wound will heal sooner with less risk of disease or pests spreading. Therefore, blades and chains must always be kept sharp and disinfected between pruning operations.

The blades and cutting chains of Campagnola tools are manufactured from the best materials available and using the most advanced techniques. The catalogue of products on the market includes hand, electric, compressed air and engine-driven tools to meet every need, while making operators’ work faster and less tiring.


Winter pruning: the main operations

Winter pruning (see also the specific in-depth article on dry pruning), mainly removes suckers, water sprouts and dry branches, broken by the wind or attacked by diseases and pests.

In addition, in this period, farmers set the form of cultivation on young trees (shape pruning), keep under control the same form of cultivation on adult trees with production pruning, and carry out reform pruning on older trees that have lost the form of cultivation set by now, perhaps due to seasonal pruning not being carried out regularly, or where there is a need to renew fruit-bearing branches.

In practice, in order to obtain larger quantities of better quality fruit, you must make sure that the ratio between the aerial and root part of the tree remains balanced (usually removing no more than 30% of the foliage), that each branch is dominated by a single top, and that the tree does not grow too tall, to make picking the fruit from the ground easier.

Pruning also includes techniques such as bending or curving (with ligatures) and tilting or spreading (with ligatures or spreaders) of branches.


Winter pruning of olive trees

Winter pruning of olive trees is the classic form of pruning, the one most often seen in the countryside of the Mediterranean area, between February and March. It is during this period that the largest cuts are made to allow the olive tree to maintain or acquire the form of cultivation desired by the farmer.

Only a few farmers continue carrying out major pruning operations on these trees even after the autumn olive harvest is over, whereas, as the harvest is the beginning of the vegetative rest period, it would be preferable to limit interventions to the removal of branches that may have been damaged by bad weather or when trying to detach the drupes from the tree.

The reason is obvious: the excess foliage will be useful for the olive tree to protect itself from the cold. Furthermore, the plant has also stored part of the energy reserves that it will need during the winter in those branches.

The ideal time for pruning would be just before the spring awakening. If this is not always possible, the important thing is to help the plant, which is still in vegetative rest, to heal the wounds left by the removal of the larger branches, by applying grafting putty to the cut surfaces, which will serve as protection to reduce the risk of disease.


Winter pruning of persimmons (kaki)

Kaki (or persimmon) trees are pruned between February and March with one basic rule: a fairly high bud load must be left on the tree. This is because female ‘kaki-type’ trees grown in the absence of pollinator plants are prevalent, and a fruit that ripens without fertilisation, called parthenocarpic, is more prone to fruit drop, even though, in the case of kaki, the smaller fruits obtained will be larger in size.

Therefore, the kaki is not pruned by counting the number of buds or branches, but by selecting well-spaced branches, preferably those that are of medium/short length and better exposed to the light, which are more likely to grow larger fruit.

On the other hand, it is possible, when necessary, to make large reform cuts during winter pruning of persimmon trees as this plant has wood that is very resistant to fungal attacks.


Winter pruning of peach trees

When it comes to the winter pruning of peach trees, the best month is March.

Rather vigorous pruning is required on this tree, with up to 50-70% of the branches being removed in the adult plants, so as to obtain a considerable size of fruit (around 170-200 grams) and at the same time allow the branches to bear the weight of a production that can reach 50-60 kg per tree.

By moving pruning operations to when the buds open, but before flowering begins, the branches to be cut can be better selected, starting by removing those most damaged by the cold. At the same time, a first thinning of future fruits can be carried out.


Winter pruning of apricot trees

Apricot trees require ‘light’ pruning, as they do not tolerate large cuts, producing what is known as ‘gummosis’ from the wounds as a response.

Therefore, the period between September and October, before the leaves fall, would be most appropriate for dry pruning of apricot trees, but it can also be done alternatively from the end of January until the vegetative awakening.

Due to the particular growth pattern of the plant, apricot trees require more green pruning: at fruit thinning and immediately after harvest.


Winter pruning of orange trees

The sweet orange tree (Latin name Citrus sinensis) is one of those fruit trees that generally should not be pruned in winter. The first reason is quite obvious: very often there are ripening fruits still attached to the tree as late as February/March.

This depends both on the climate of the producing countries and on the fact that the many varieties grown differ not only in the characteristics of the fruit, but also in the ripening period.

The second reason why winter pruning of the orange tree is not recommended lies in the fact that the maximum accumulation of reserve substances in the leaves and branches is reached in February and March. Depriving the plant of these reserves would have repercussions on the subsequent setting of the flowers and thus on fruit production.

The most suitable time for pruning the orange tree, the most substantial one, is therefore between May and July, when temperatures are neither too low nor too high.

Some of the most suitable Campagnola tools for orchards and olive groves

S4 (anvil-cut hand shear), S25 (fixed-bladed saw) and S20 (straight anvil-cut hand lopper) models from the Campagnola catalogue are particularly suitable hand tools.

Of the electric tools with plug-in battery, SL23, SPEEDY,STARK M and STARK L shears and the T-CAT M, the T-FOX and T-REX electric chain pruner models stand out for these jobs.

Pneumatic tools include STAR30 and VICTORY shears and LASER chain pruner as a good substitute for engine-driven chainsaws for branches up to 20 cm in diameter.

Different configurations of electric and pneumatic tools can be created by mounting them on fixed and telescopic extension poles.

For more information on Campagnolatools you can consult the online catalogue, use the contact section  of this website, or contact the official network of localdealers, where you can view and purchase tools, accessories and spare parts.

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