The question- frequently arises, when to ,prune. Among the earlier horticulturists this question was often answered as follows : Prune when your knife is sharp. This is a comparatively safe method to follow with most plants, but where the problem involves the management of extensive commercial plantations it is not so easy to prune in this miscellaneous fashion. The work must necessarily be done at some particular season and carried on in a systematic manner after some definite plan.
With’ most orchardists and gardeners pruning can best be done during the winter or early spring months, and where the object is the removal of small branches this season is undoubtedly quite as satisfactory as any other. In fact, pruning during late spring, about the time or just previous to the beginning of growth, is particularly advantageous with ‘the peach, because at that season, as a rule, all injury to the annual growth from winterkilling will be apparent, and the pruner can take advantage of this to remove all dead or injured branches, and at the same time modify his plan so as to leave a maximum quantity of wood in order to secure a profitable crop of fruit, which might not be possible were the usual practice of removing half the annual growth followed in such seasons.
With apple and pear, which suffer less from winterkilling, the annual pruning can as well be done in March, in the north, as at any other season. With the grape, however, which is likely to produce a heavy flow of sap if the pruning is delayed until late in the season, it is undoubtedly best to do the pruning during the late fall and early winter months.
When the pruning involves the removal of annual growth, rather than large branches, the cut invariably should be made immediately above a bud. If made just below a bud, or in the middle of the space between buds, that portion of the shoot left above the topmost bud invariably dies back to the bud, leaving a blackened, decaying stem, which is of no benefit to the plant and may prove a direct injury in that it provides a means of access for injurious pests.
To facilitate the healing process in the plant, all wounds which are made should be left smooth ; that is, if it is necessary to use a saw in removing a large branch, the cut surface should be left smooth and clean, particularly around the edges. The saw should be sharp and leave a clean cut. This in turn should be made smoother by the use of a pruning knife or a sharp- chisel. The healing process starts quicker and progresses more rapidly when this precaution is observed than when a rough and jagged surface is left.
To obtain best results in removing large branches two cuts should be made; that is, the branch should be sawed off 18 or 20 inches above the point of its origin to prevent splitting down and tearing off a considerable portion of the bark. After the weight of the branch has been lessened by cutting away the main part a second cut can be made and the stub held in position until the cut is completed. This prevents the splitting down and tearing off the bark, which is likely to result from the careless removal of large branches.
The evil results of splitting can be overcome frequently by cutting first on the under side of the limb and then upon the upper side, so that the breaking of the tissue occurs near the middle of the wound instead of at one side. When this is the case, tearing and splitting seldom occur.