Plum tree pruning

Asked September 17, 2014, 2:53 PM EDT

This Brooks plum tree was planted in 1994 and has been a heavy producer. Last night the Eugene Area Gleaners got several bushels from it. It has only been lightly pruned over the years. I don't really know what I'm doing. Earlier this season 2 large central branches broke under the weight of fruit and being weighed down by other branches. I'd like to know how to proceed with pruning the tree. Thank you

Lane County Oregon

1 Response

Pruning a plum tree is pretty easy. Just follow a couple main goals. One to shorten branches that start drooping. Most fruit is set on 2-3 year old wood. Over time this wood is out toward the end of branches. That puts too much stress on the limbs. Shorten the limbs by several feet now. In the future prune every year and shorten the limbs if they appear to be drooping. When shortening a branch try to cut above an outward growing lateral. This will push the vigor after pruning into the outward lateral. Don't make stub cuts where no laterals exist or the next year you will get a flush of many new shoots from the same area.
The second goal to follow is to keep the tree open to light throughout the canopy. So make thinning cuts of branches. If two branches are next to each other or one is over the top of another, remove one. These cuts remove whole branches back to the scaffolds or main trunk. This also minimizes regrowth.
Trying to tell someone how to prune is not a good way to learn. I would advise you to take a pruning class from Master Gardeners in your county. Hands-on learning is much easier.