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Fruit Tree Care: Removing Tree Suckers and Water Sprouts

by Stark Bro's on 08/15/2013
Apple Tree with Suckers & Water Sprouts

Sometimes, when we garden, it’s thrilling just watching things grow — but not all growth is beneficial. Suckers and water sprouts are some common examples of fast new growth that take away energy from plants and trees. In this article, we’re going to focus on what tree suckers and water sprouts are and why they should be removed from grafted fruit trees and nut trees.

Ideally, any growth from below the graft union or growth coming from the roots/below the ground on a fruit or nut tree should be removed as soon as it appears. This same thing applies to fast-growing vertical shoots coming from the trunk/branches that may appear later on in your tree’s life as it matures.

Allowing suckers and water sprouts to remain on your fruit tree or nut tree will only take away from the vegetative and fruiting wood you want to grow strong and healthy. If you’re wondering exactly what a sucker or a water sprout is, then let’s go over some definitions.

What are Tree Suckers and Water Sprouts?

Suckers: Vegetative, adventitious growth coming from the root system of a tree
Water sprouts: Vegetative, vigorous, vertical growth stemming from a tree’s trunk or branches

*While sometimes used interchangeably, “Suckers” differ from “Water Sprouts”. Suckers and Water Sprouts also differ from Stolons and Rhizomes.

Removing Tree Suckers

Suckers, which grow from the rootstock, steal nutrients from the grafted part of a tree — the top growth, with the characteristics of the selected variety. The rootstock may be connected to the top growth of the tree, but it is going to differ from the variety that was selected to plant. For example, a Granny Smith apple tree will not have a Granny Smith apple rootstock, so there would be no real benefit from allowing suckers to take over. Rootstocks are often selected for characteristics like size (dwarf) and disease resistance — not fruit production or quality.

You may have to move some soil to find the base of a sucker. Be sure to remove as much of the sucker growth as possible. This process will need to be repeated if suckers emerge again, but it is a simple task. As long as they are not allowed to persist for several seasons, even several suckers can be removed within minutes.

Pruning to Remove Suckers from Tree Rootstock  Pruning to Remove Apple Tree Suckers

Removing Water Sprouts

Water sprouts can arise from weather or other damage. It is not a recommended practice for many reasons, but over-pruning — like when a tree that was unpruned for many years suddenly gets pruned heavily, all at once — can cause water sprouts to form as well. Water sprouts are fast-growing and have a tendency to grow vertically, either from the trunk or from an existing branch, and they block light and air circulation within the tree. This growth habit means water sprouts are in the way and they reduce the overall quality of potential fruit. Also, because water sprouts are usually weaker than other branches, they can be sites for breaks, tears, and disease.

Water-sprout removal should occur close to the trunk or branch from which they are growing. Just like with regular, routine pruning, be sure not to leave much of a stub behind when you remove water sprouts. This will help your tree to properly heal itself. Watch this video for a short demonstration on how and why you should remove suckers and water sprouts:

The best time of year for removal is in the early spring when you’re doing other maintenance pruning; however, sometimes this unwanted growth can shoot up during the growing season, so, if you see any develop on your fruit and nut trees, grab your pruning shears and remove those suckers (and water sprouts). You’ll be doing your trees a favor!

For further control of tree suckers, try Bonide® Sucker Punch »

68 Comments

  1. Linda permalink

    Would you do an article about what to use to spray apple trees in middle and southern Georgia? Also, what the spraying schedule should be, as it seems that we have such problems keeping the apples disease and insect free. The varieties we have planted are suited to our area, and have begun to bear.

    • That would be nice to be able to do, but there would be so many counties and states expecting this, and so many restrictions and variables, that it would be an impossibly overwhelming task! Fortunately, this kind of information is readily available through your local county Extension service.

      Here is an extremely useful and relevant PDF on “Home Orchard Pest Management”, including prevalent diseases, from UGA: http://www.ent.uga.edu/pmh/Hm_Home_Orchard.pdf‎ — if you’re having trouble viewing it, they even provide a link to a pdf reader here: http://www.ent.uga.edu/pmh/

    • Wade permalink

      The best thing to do is stay away from spraying as much as possible. You need to wait and see if there is a need for spraying. Too many people just spray because that is what they think they supposed to do. And then wonder why they have developed cancer, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and so many other sicknesses and diseases. Americans use poisons like they are safe as a bottle of milk………but they are not. My grandfather had an orchard when I was growing up in the 60′s and 70′s. He had various apple, peach, pear, and cherry trees. He also had numerous grape vines. He raised much fruit for his 10 children and their children, and he used NO CHEMICALS, SPRAYS, OR POISONS — ABSOLUTELY NONE. Of course you would get some apples with a few bug bites, or an apple occasionally with a worm in it. We would discard that piece of fruit or cut the bug bites away. The tobacco companies said smoking would not hurt you or cause cancer until many years went by and it was proven that smoking does cause cancer and bad health. And of course many nurseries want you to use chemicals, poisons, and sprays and recommend it because they want their fruit trees to produce beautiful fruit………the health consequences are secondary. But inside that beautiful fruit lies chemicals, that like smoking over a long period of time, can lead to bad health, various health problems, and the encouragement of cancers, etc. So be wise and wait and see just how much, if any, you need to spray. Keep spraying to the very minimum. A few bug bites can be cut out and discarded and will help you stay healthier longer and live longer. The beauty of an apple is not worth the loss of your health.

  2. Betsy permalink

    What about suckers that grow from the roots, way out into the yard. We have a pear tree that sends suckers a LOT. Is there any way to keep it from doing so? I’m happy to dig away soil and get down to the larger root, from which the suckers are being sent out. But they keep coming back, so I have to do this several times each growing season. Here in sunny California, the growing season is VERY long.

    • I know some people deal with shoots appearing around the yard just by mowing them over when they mow the lawn. Next to manually pruning or ripping the suckers out (as some people prefer), this is the easiest method, but it may need to be repeated as they appear and before they get very large.

      There are also chemicals that can be applied to root suckers during the growing season — usually requires pruning out the suckers and then applying the chemical (following the label instructions for the specific trees) to discourage their return. Sucker Punch is an example of this type of sucker control.

  3. Bob Huntley permalink

    What would be the best way to keep squirrels, from stealing all of my peaches? I wrapped the tree with netting, but somehow, they still got over the top. Would a hot pepper spray or a sprinkler with a electric eye work? Thanks for any answer, I’m very frustrated. They seem to steal the peaches, early in the morning, before I’m out of bed.

    • There isn’t one best method for deterring squirrels, unfortunately. If you hear of a method that works for someone, give it a try. And don’t be afraid of trying several methods at once or changing things up! Some people like to hang heavily scented soaps for the tree, or shiny pie pans or windchimes, or they keep their dogs around where the trees grow. In addition to the use of netting, some people use scarecrows, or statues of owls in the tree, or predator urine around the trees to scare squirrels away. Pepper spray might be worth it, but squirrels tend to want what’s beneath the skin of the peach anyway (usually for the hydration of the fruit juice or the pit of the peach), and the pepper spray won’t have any effect there.

      I’ll be honest: I personally hadn’t heard of the electric eye sprinkler systems before now, and they sound like they might be effective if they work like they say they do! If you or anyone gives this method a try, I’d love to hear how well it works!

      • demetrious permalink

        active dogs in the orchard

      • Joan permalink

        I use the Contech sprinklers with the motion activation and love them. I am able to grow tulips in a yard with heavy deer pressure. The only draw back is when a human catches the blast, usually my husband…

      • Rich permalink

        I bought this trap on Amazon.com called the Squirrelinator with basin… I’ve taught 46 squirrels how to swim so far… And about 40 of them were in the course of two months. When the population died down I eased back on the baiting of the trap. For bait peanut butter works but I also use sunflower bird seed.

        I’ve also heard planting spearmint keeps squirrels away. A friend of the family did that because their peach tree was routinely raided by them and this year they have a crop!

      • George Marshal permalink

        I put up signs “No squirrels allowed.” They haven’t worked yet….but I’m hoping they will. I know that “Deer Crossing” signs work because there are so many of them here in Illinois and I see deer crossing in those areas all the time.

        • John permalink

          squirrels are not required to attend school for reading lessons and no signs have cute shadow drawings of a squirrel.
          Deer however have seen so many people slow down around the sign for deer and therefore avoid those areas posted.

    • fruitnut permalink

      This season I had scrub jays, robins and orioles peck away at my unripe Double Delight nectarines. Very annoying to say the least. In seasons past I tried the plastic netting but it just ripped off the new growth when I removed it at season’s end. What worked for me (don’t laugh) was buying a bag of brown paper lunch sacks and stapling each over 2 or 3 nectarines. Sure, it looked like a sack lunch tree, but I did get enough ripe fruit to make preserves!

      • No one is going to laugh at you for finding a method that works! I found myself ill-prepared to deal with squirrels stealing my apples this year. I only had 3 apples on my tree and the squirrel took 2. In an act of desperation, I took an old sack that garlic came in from the grocery store and wrapped that around the remaining apple. I was able to harvest it!

    • J Dan permalink

      Buy a few plastic toy snakes and hang them on your tree. Squirrels usually will stay away, and it makes interesting conversation with guests.

    • We had three trees with peaches a couple of years ago. The squirrels found them delightful. Saw a documentary about China, and to grow perfect fruit, pear growers were putting plastic food bags over the fruit and tying them on with twisties. We tried it. It worked for one season, then the squirrels just ripped parts of the bags off. I agree dogs are a good solution, and since we now have two cats, the squirrels stay pretty far away. No peaches this year, due to the crazy weather.

    • Jay Williams permalink

      A solution made by boiling pipe tobacco and spraying it around on the grass or ground is effective in keeping dogs and cats from going into the area. I don’t know if it would be effective in deterring squirrels. It would be worth a try.
      Jay

  4. Ann Breedlove permalink

    My Dwf. Starks yellow delicious tree fell over during a windstorm this spring. We have it staked up on all 4 sides. I was wondering what is the best way to save the tree. This is the first year it had apples and don’t want to loose it if possible.

    • Good instincts, Ann! That’s what I would have done, and that’s what we have done with some of the apple trees in our orchards that happened to lean over from a heavy crop or be blown over by strong winds. Now that it’s staked, your tree should focus its energy on recovering. As a warning: it may not be eager to set a fruit crop next year as a result of this year’s shock, but it should pick up where it left off after that. :)

    • G.T. Alligood permalink

      Had a couple of apple trees blow over in a storm a few years ago. No breakage just uprooted. Using my farm tractor as an anchor I used a come-a-long to pull them upright. While the ground was very wet pulled them part way upright by using large diameter rope so would not cut into bark. Over several days was able to get them over 80-90 percent upright. Would pull until until knew tension on tree and roots was approaching breaking point, then wait a day or two and apply more tension. It took several pulls to get them upright over about a week to 10 days. Make sure the soil is very wet while doing this. They survived and are still producing fruit. Yes, I braced them once they were upright.

  5. Ann Sowards permalink

    A peach tree I got from Stark last year never developed buds like its sister tree, but has a lot of growth at the base. If these are suckers, should I prune them even I’d they’re the only growth?

    • This is a common thought among fruit tree growers. Unfortunately, rootstock growth isn’t the same as grafted variety growth. If the top graft of your peach tree isn’t budding or showing signs of life*, then the tree should be replaced — unless you’re just using the tree to feed wildlife. Deer don’t care about fruit quality! ;)

      *You can find out if the variety/graft portion of your tree is still living if you do a scratch test. Go out to where the tree is planted, take your thumb nail or a butter knife and, midway up the trunk, scratch a layer of bark away. Do not do this on a branch instead: branches can die and not affect the life or vigor of the tree itself. Do this in a small spot halfway up the trunk, and don’t scratch incredibly deep. You want to remove the outer layer of bark to see the wood beneath: green, wet, wood is living tissue and your graft is still living. In this case, remove the suckers sooner than later so that energy can go to improve the health of the grafted part of your tree rather than the sucker growth.

      If the wood beneath the scratch is dry, brown, hard, and brittle like a dead stick, then the graft has died. If you are eligible for a replacement tree under Stark Bro’s 1-year warranty, give our customer support team a call (800.325.4180) so that you can give growing a sister for your other peach tree another shot. :)

  6. Alan permalink

    Would suckers kill a tree that we bought from you? We have one on your apple trees that has been in the yard for two summers now and suckers started shooting up and the leaves have all fallen off. It was growing fairly well then the suckers started shooting up and eventually the leaves started changing. We have trimmed the suckers back however fruitless.

    • Suckers wouldn’t kill a tree just on their own. Something environmental would have to be weakening the top graft in the first place and then the suckers would be stealing nutrients that would normally go to supporting the top growth. Keeping the suckers removed will ultimately benefit your tree, even if you don’t notice an immediate improvement. If you noticed any other signs (pest damage, leaf spots, too much/not enough water, spraying when it’s too hot out, etc.) that could help determine why the apple tree has lost its leaves.

  7. I planted my trees in the fall. We had a late frost and about three trees gave up. These trees now have suckers coming. Is it better than nothing?

    • By “gave up” do you mean your trees died, or did they just became weakened by the late frost? If the trees were grafted and they were simply weakened, the suckers are going to steal energy needed for them to bounce back. If they were grafted fruit trees or nut trees, and the grafted parts died, I would suggest taking the trees out. As mentioned in the article, the rootstock won’t become the trees that you selected to plant.

      It really depends on what trees you planted, and why you planted them. If they’re for wildlife, away from structures, and you don’t care about size/quality/production of what grows, then I can see how suckers might be considered better than nothing. If these trees were intended to increase the appeal of your home landscape, or provide fruit, then the suckers aren’t going to be any benefit there.

  8. Allen permalink

    I bought/planted a dwarf Stark early white giant peach last spring. I did not think that was a grafted tree and I don’t remember seeing any graft. Was I mistaken?

    The peach did well at first then died back to nothing after the warm. I responded to this by cutting the top off experimentally in the fall/winter season. This year I got one bud from the trunk. We thought it might develop into a new branch however it seemed to die suddenly and I now have three purple-leaved “branches” growing from near the soil line – what I would have thought are water sprouts. Are these really suckers on a grafted peach tree?

    I guess I will cut those back tomorrow during the daylight since they are apparently doing no good for the root system of this tree. I’ll also do the scratch test you suggest to see if the trunk appears dead.

    I figured there might be life in the tree roots yet even if part of the trunk seems dead and that I may need to give a pear tree time to establish itself underground here in SC zone 8. I guess I was mistaken about that too eh?

    • Yeah your Stark® Early White Giant™ Peach is definitely a grafted tree. There are several reasons grafted trees are preferable to seed-grown trees. You can read about them in our article: The Science of Grafting.

      One of the reasons we like to use the Redleaf Seedling rootstock on trees like your peach tree is so that it is easy to tell when there is sucker-growth coming from below the graft. The rootstock’s leaves are the purplish color you’re seeing now instead of the bluish-green color a healthy white peach tree’s leaves ought to be.

      If you find that there is still life in the grafted portion of your tree’s trunk, then it is still helpful to give your tree more time to come out of whatever is stressing it out — your instincts are good, Allen! :)

  9. Allen permalink

    Excuse me…that should be “peach” not “pear” in the last sentence above. The two pears and the three apple trees I planted at the same time as and near the peach are all doing well this season! The almond not so much and you’ve heard about the peach… :-)

  10. Lillian permalink

    We have had trouble with Fire Bilght on our 30 yr old dwarfpear tree for it’s entire life.Several years ago we had to cut out the whole top of the tree which has now regrown. Some years we get 500-600 pears from it. We spray with agristrep in the spring 3 times at blossom time. Anyway, when I got done pruning out the affected growth after harvest, I sprayed a gallon of agristrep on the tree. I was wondering if this would do any good. There are a few black leafs but it is too early to tell if last weeks spraying did anything. What do you think?Lilli

    • Many growers will say that the only time strep spray is effective against the bacteria that causes fire blight is during bloom time. It is very effective then, but the strep spray still works through the foliage, so your effort wasn’t wasted. :) Just be sure to sanitize your clippers between pruning cuts and cut below the signs of infection while you continue to remove any sites of fire blight to stay on top of controlling it in your productive pear tree.

  11. john haithcox permalink

    I have had pecan trees from Starks for 12 years never got a pecan due to a blight that gets on the nut and dries it up was told to spray 8 to 12 times a year to control blight instead I cut them down is there a pecan tree not susceptible to this blight

    • I’m sorry to hear about your trees, John! :( Unfortunately, it’s going to be difficult to advise a variety that isn’t susceptible without knowing what type of blight was affecting your pecan trees.

      There are disease-resistant pecan varieties like Kanza and Lakota but, if a type of blight is really problematic there, you will be better off contacting your local county Extension to find out which varieties of pecan tree they recommend for your growing success.

      You can find your county extension office’s contact information here (based on your state/county): http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/

  12. Patricia Jones permalink

    Please tell me what the wrapping on the tree trunk is and its purpose. Thanks.

    • That’s an excellent question, Patricia! The trunk has one of our Tree Guards wrapped around it. These are easily removed for cleaning and checking the trunks for borers or other pests or signs of disease.

      Tree guards, tree wraps, and other trunk protectors help to prevent critters from nibbling the bark around the trunks of your young trees. If critters, like rabbits, frequent your planting site, they pose a risk of girdling several trees over night, especially in the fall/winter/early spring when other food sources are scarce.

      Tree guards also help protect against the sun in winter, which warms the trunk and then, when temperatures drop again at night, the warmth cools quickly, causing splits and cracks in the bark. The white color of the tree guards helps to reflect the light (the same way that painting the trunks with 50/50 white latex paint/water solution works), minimizing the chance of the fluctuating temperatures in the winter injuring the bark.

  13. Leeburg permalink

    this year I am trying plastic shopping bags tied to my garden fence that move in different directions. I have ground squirrels and some rabbits and it seems to be working and its free.

  14. Susan Adkins permalink

    I appreciated reading all the info on fruit trees as I am having a major problem with a plout tree.

  15. Susan Adkins permalink

    Oops, needed to finish comment. My plout tree is only showing signs of life on the very top and is getting alot of suckers on the bottom. I have noticed some holes on the limbs and am thinking termites have invaded it?

    • Since termites are one of nature’s decomposers, they mostly feed on dead wood, so it is more likely that the pests putting holes in your tree’s limbs are something else — like twig-borers or certain moth pests. You can prune to remove the damaged parts of the limbs, which will also stimulate growth from buds that remain.

      A good pest control is the best way to avoid a pest issue becoming worse. You can try using a natural control like Neem Oil (as long as the temperatures aren’t consistently in the 90s and above yet) or a general pesticide like Sevin® Bug Killer to get rid of any pests that may be harming your tree.

      Removing the sucker growth will help improve the health of the tree, too. Suckers tend to steal energy from the rest of the tree in order to grow quickly, but, since the suckers come from the rootstock, the growth is not going to become a pluot anyway.

      I hope this helps!

  16. Susan Adkins permalink

    Thank you very much. I will try one of the sprays and see what happens.

  17. Faye permalink

    I have a dwarf citrus tree and a branch has developed from the main trunk that grew very fast and has larger leaves than the other branches. It is growing from above the graft. It is growing relatively straight up. I read on another website that water spouts can be trained to a greater angle and can fill in an empty spot on a tree that needs another branch. Should I do this or would it be best to just remove it?

    • Hi Faye! For the most part, watersprouts are removed to keep them from limiting light and air flow within the tree, but you’re right — they can be trained to grow outward to fill in empty spots or to create more of a balanced look. This is something we do here in our orchards, especially if a tree has suffered some kind of damage that not only encouraged watersprout development but also left part of the tree bare.

      If you have a spot your tree’s watersprout can be trained to “fill in” you are welcome to try it. You may need to use limb spreaders or tie a weight to the end of the watersprout to get it to grow outward rather than straight up, but (as long as it’s not actually a sucker from the rootstock) it should be fine.

      If it ends up not doing the job you hoped it would (filling in a gap) you can still opt to remove it later. :)

  18. Lewis Stout permalink

    Again, the video on your training tapes is terrible. Can hardly see even a shadow of what is supposed to be displayed. Is anyone else having this trouble? Lewis Stout
    I would really like to SEE what is being talked about.

    • The video quality is fine for me and many others Lewis. Unfortunately, your issue is likely your video player or flash and not the video itself.

      Here is a direct link to the video in this blog post if it helps:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZXT_H2e8VM

      If not, try an internet search for something like “youtube video plays only audio” and you should find a walkthrough so that you can fix your display issue.

    • Powell Gammill permalink

      Video appears fine for me as well. Do other videos look dark as well on your PC, especially from other sources? Your video decoder may be getting to old to handle displaying all the video information, you may not have enough dedicated video RAM or your monitor may be failing. Your PC may support adding an inexpensive video card (ex: HD6450, HD5450). It is easy to do and the maker of your PC will likely tell you how in downloadable tech support documents. If you are using an old laptop about all you can try is to add the maximum memory (usually fairly easy), update the video driver and check the BIOS menu to ensure any system RAM dedicated to video is set to maximum or even better, dynamic, if this option is present.

  19. Laura Major permalink

    Is it possible to encourage water sprouts to produce apples by spreading them horizontally? I’ve been hanging mesh bags of rocks on the sprouts to force them down, but wonder if this is a waste of time. The trees are full size trees, apparently very old, and have suffered a lot of damage due to one thing and another. I’m gradually replacing them with Stark Bros. dwarf apple, cherry, and plum trees, but would like the old ones to hang on for as long as possible.

    • It actually is possible, Laura! I’ve seen a demonstration of this, where the older limbs of a tree were damaged and the watersprouts in the canopy were numerous. The watersprouts were then spread out more horizontally (in order to get more light and produce fruiting buds) and it helped avoid an otherwise unfortunate situation for the tree.

      In cases where watersprouts are merely competing with healthy limbs and blocking light, they should be removed, but they could be used to serve a helpful purpose in cases like yours!

  20. Powell Gammill permalink

    The ISA Arborist Certification ANSI 300 standards teach leaving the water sprouts on for a couple of years to help with their associated trunk and main branch development (taper). I got the feeling this did not apply to fruit tree development. Still, I let water sprouts on fruit trees have their life for that season and then remove them when dormant. Besides the 1 year old dormant water sprouts make excellent scions on non-patented cultivars.

    Suckers on the other hand should be removed as soon as they are noted.

    I am not an ISA Cert. Arborist, nor have I read their ANSI 300 or Best Management Practices standard on Pruning. Just relaying what I was told by an ISA Cert. Master Arborist and I did not have the opportunity with him to clarify the matter with respect to fruit trees. What does Stark Bros’ Cert. Arborist(s) think?

    • In most cases with fruit trees, where light is essential to fruit production and quality, as well as the development of fruiting wood, it is discouraged to allow watersprouts to remain because they create shading issues. They also disrupt air flow and, in wet seasons, can create more of a fungal disease issue.

      In extreme cases, like the comment above yours where the watersprouts can be repurposed as replacement fruiting limbs in the future, it is fine to allow watersprouts to remain. In most common cases, and speaking for fruit trees, Stark’s experts recommend removing watersprouts as soon as possible.

  21. Michael Garner permalink

    There is plenty written about how much top growth one can expect from this or that variety of fruit tree on any of the various root stocks. My question is. How much root growth can one expect from the various root stocks in say the first season then the second season then the third season etc.?

    • The top growth seems to be more predictable than the root system, mostly because it’s easier to see. In most cases, it’s difficult even to give a generalization on the branching of a tree from year one, two, and so on since it can depend greatly on the environment and the weather.

      Something to consider is that some fruit trees, like pawpaw trees, have more of a carrot-like deep taproot and some, like peach trees, have more of a widely spreading system of roots. Root development also depends on the type of soil the tree is growing in.

      That being said, a good estimation you could make is that the tree’s root system will be at least as widespread as the tree’s current branches (often slightly wider), and even reach several feet deep. To put it in perspective, we recommend to dig a 2-foot deep and 2-foot around hole to accommodate the average 2-year-old fruit tree’s current root system at planting time — with room to grow.

  22. Raiden permalink

    We planted a Brown Turkey Fig from Starkbros last year. The trunks of this tree are dead this year but there are many sucker from the root (even with two fruits now). Should we keep these suckers as trees?

    We also have an Apricot tree with dead trunks and many suckers. Can you provide any suggestions?

    Thank you!

    • The fig tree is grown on its own root, so any suckers will be true-to-name, in your case, Brown Turkey Fig.

      The apricot tree, on the other hand, is grafted to a different rootstock, and allowing sucker from below the graft to grow into a tree is not recommended. The rootstock isn’t used for fruit production or quality as a tree, and if the top/grafted portion of the apricot tree has died, it’s best just to replace the tree.

  23. Bob permalink

    I purchased 5 bare root semi-dwarf apple trees from you this spring and they are all growing nicely. The only problem I have is that 2 of the trees might have been planted in an area that does not get the recommended number hours of direct sun each day. Can I move the trees this fall? Or should I wait to transplant them in the spring? Thank you.

    • Good question, Bob! If you realize you need to move your trees, it’s better to move them when they are dormant. After their leaves have fallen, and hopefully the soil isn’t frozen solid, you should try gathering as much of the tree’s root system as possible and keeping it intact. This will help decrease risk of shock.

  24. Jeannine Westbrooks permalink

    All my fruit trees (Cherry sweet and sour) Apple-Pear, peach have Brown rot. When should I spray and with what?

  25. Anne Legendy permalink

    This last winter 3 of my young Stark apple trees were pretty much ‘girdled’ at the bottom of the tree by some kind of a rodent. My neighbor tried to do by-pass surgery by slipping small branches below the injured area and the other end above the injured area thereby bridging the injured area and then used electric tape to wrap the entire area . After that she cut back the trees to about half their size. We took off the electric tape after 3 months. It looked like some of the bypasses had worked, others didn’t but all 3 trees are alive.
    How long will it take in your estimate until these trees will fully recover and what should or could I do to prevent this kind of damage again. How can I protect these trees? Should I put tree guards around the trunks? Any suggestions would be welcome.

    • Wow, let me start off by saying your neighbor is incredibly skilled! Bridge grafting (the name for the technique you described) is tricky even for experienced grafters, so you’re very lucky to have her around.

      Your young trees have likely been set back by at least a year. They will spend most of their energy healing at this point, and how quickly this process goes depends on how healthy the trees are and how healthy they remain from this point on. It’s difficult to estimate recovery time, but it’s very promising since the trees are still living now. Your neighbor might have a better idea, since she’s more familiar with the trees.

      Rabbits could be the culprit, especially if the damage seemed to happen over night. Rabbits can girdle dozens of trees over night, especially in winter time when their typical food sources are scarce and young tree bark is one of their only means of sustenance. We recommend trunk-protecting tree guards to prevent chewing critters (as well as sun-related winter injury), so that should help. You can also put up fences around your trees for further protection. If possible, you might consider building the fences tall enough to keep deer from rubbing or nibbling tender growth on your young trees as well. It would be a shame to save the trees from rabbits and mice only to have deer come in from the top and damage them that way. I hope this helps!

      • Anne Legendy permalink

        Thank you Sarah. Unfortunately, my neighbor moved away this spring – but you are right, she is incredibly skilled, she used to own and run a nursery.
        Also thank you for approving tree guards, I will definitely give them a try this fall. Right now I just want the trees to have as much air circulation as possible.
        I don’t think that the damage was done by rabbits because for one I do have fences around the trees and secondly the damage happened beneath the snow line. Only once the snow melted, did I notice the damage. Thanks again for your reply.

  26. Alan J. Sykes permalink

    Can you provide advice on how and when to prune my apple, peach and fig trees?

    • In general, when pruning, you always want to remove damaged, dead, and diseased limbs. There is no benefit to leaving any of these on your trees. You should also remove suckers/watersprouts like explained in the blog post above. Remove any and all of these as soon as they appear.

      There is also general pruning for maintaining the structure of the tree. For example, you should cut back the tips of that year’s new growth to encourage sturdier limbs the following year. You should also aim to remove limbs that grow inward toward the center of the tree, as well as limbs that cross over one another and rub together. You should wait until the trees are dormant, usually in winter or early spring, to do this heavier sort of pruning.

      Very basically speaking, apple trees prefer a “main leader” or “central leader” structure. Peach trees prefer an “open center” or “vase shape” structure.

      You can see how to prune to these shapes here: Successful Tree Pruning.

      Pruning Fruit Trees: Main Leader (basic video demonstration)
      • Pruning Fruit Trees: Vase Shape (basic video demonstration)

      Fig trees very rarely need to be pruned. Aside from removing damaged/weak, dead, and diseased limbs, I would recommend only pruning your fig tree if it is becoming too tall or too bushy for your space, and then only remove the branches that are too tall or too low to the ground (creating a bush-like appearance rather than a tree-like one).

  27. Eric Nelson permalink

    I have a 9 month old miniature/dwarf apricot tree I bought from you. It appears very healthy,
    but has 4 ‘water sprouts’ growing from near ground level that are 5 feet high. Is it your advice
    to prune them now or wait until the new tree goes dormant?

    • We recommend pruning suckers and watersprouts as soon as they appear. Allowing them to remain on the tree will only allow them to get bigger and take more nutrients away from the top growth you want to encourage during the growing season.

  28. Many of my peach trees failed to leaf out this spring….no doubt due to last winters weather. During this growth year, many have sprouted what appears to be new growth from below the graft union….I gather this is called a water sprout. My question is, if I were to pick one of these sprouts and develop it into another tree, will it bear fruit? I realize it will not be true to the variety I planted because the growth is below the graft union….and I know that the root stock was selected to withstand just the weather it survived…..but still, is there any hope of getting an edible peach from this “tree”? I’m guessing the root stock is probably from some old time variety that the plant geneticists decided didn’t bear well enough to keep but did survive the whopper winter we had last year.

    • Rootstocks are often selected for factors other than fruit quality, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t fruit. Our peach redleaf seedling rootstock, for example, does grow and bear a small sweet-tart peach that is edible – even though it’s not as meaty or delicious as the varieties we graft to the rootstock. If you wanted to experiment with what grows and fruits from your peach trees’ rootstocks, you can, but (in my opinion) if you have to wait a couple years for fruit anyway you might as well plant a new grafted peach variety so you know what to expect.

      We even have some cold-hardy peach trees here that might be more ideal candidates for surviving harsh winters a bit better.

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