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Fruit gardening: What can I prune right now?

November 17, 2020
Man pruning grapevines with a group of people looking on.
Wait until January or February to prune grapevines.

As we clean up our gardens for winter, many gardeners have been asking when they can start pruning their fruit trees and shrubs. There is something satisfying about having everything clean and ready for next season, but hurrying to prune can do more harm than good. 

Here is when you can start pruning different types of fruits in Minnesota:

Raspberries

Prune once canes are dormant and leaves have fallen, or wait until the spring. For fall-bearing raspberries, mow them down to about 3 inches above the ground. For summer-bearing raspberries, prune off the canes that have produced fruit and leave the rest. Most growers wait until spring to prune.

Blueberries

Wait until late winter. Because blueberries grow so low to the ground, most fruit growers will wait to prune until the snow has melted enough that they can access the bottoms of the plants. Pruning in fall is unnecessary.

Grapes

Technically, grapes can be pruned once all leaves have fallen and they are fully dormant. But in practice, it is best and safest to wait until January or February to prune. There is no hurry to prune grapevines, especially if you just have a few vines, so it is best to wait until late winter. Why? Because pruning too early risks accidentally pruning before the plants are fully dormant, which means you're removing energy from the plant. Also, pruning during above-freezing temperatures allows trunk diseases to enter the wood through the pruning cuts.

Fruit trees (apples, pears, cherries, plums)

Like most fruits mentioned above, wait until mid or late winter to start pruning your fruit trees. The best time to prune fruit trees is after the coldest winter temperatures have passed, and before the buds begin to swell in spring. This translates to February to March in Minnesota.

Author: Annie Klodd, Extension educator, fruit and vegetable production

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