I would remove all side branches except for about 4, evenly distributed around the trunk, with a good crotch angle (i.e. not too vertical). At this age you want to focus on the scaffold branches, not on fruiting.
Patrick Mann wrote:I would remove all side branches except for about 4, evenly distributed around the trunk, with a good crotch angle (i.e. not too vertical). At this age you want to focus on the scaffold branches, not on fruiting.
and then I'd head those back by 1/3 to force some branching.
I would do the same thing as Patrick. In the future I would also make sure that the "heart" of the tree stays open and no crossing of branches is allowed to happen. Another future consideration is how tall you want it to get and to keep it "headed" or pruned back to that height.
What the guys before me said. This just calls for a vase (cup) shape. So, select 3 to 4 strong branches that will form the frame of the tree. If possible, they should not be growing from the trunk at exactly the same height -- let there be some variation.
I like how Sepp Holzer does not prune his fruittrees. He has a great explanation about it in his "Sepp Holzer's Permaculture" book. I don't prune my fruit trees either.
Trees that I bought from nurseries are weak from being pruned already. I can expect a few branches to break during their first few years after being transplanted. That's okay. I let them break and leave the broken branches in place as props to help future branches not break. I have some fruit trees that have grown from seed. Since those trees have never been pruned, I would be very surprised if any of their branches break from heavy wind or loads of fruit. If their branches do break then that's okay too. The broken branches will make way for stronger ones.
I let the trees keep their suckers. I don't prune any low branches either. The suckers and low branches protect the tree from being sunburned on the trunk. Sometimes little critters like mice want to eat the bark from the trunk. If there are suckers around the trunk, then the little critters will eat the suckers instead. I always heard the advice that suckers steal energy from the tree. I have not found that to be the case. In fact, it is the opposite. I have found that trees with suckers are more healthy and vigorous than those without.
Some people prune the tops off the trees so they can reach all the fruit. I let my fruit trees grow as tall as they want. The birds feel safe up high and eat the top fruit. I eat the lower fruit. I need the birds to eat insects for me. I consider the top fruit in the tree as their payment for insect control.
I leave crisscrossed branches. If any branches die, then I will leave them too. I have not found any problems with air circulation. The extra branches can provide some protection from sunburn.
In the past I used to prune fruit trees at my old house. Now I do not prune. Overall, I have found that it is much less work to care for my fruit trees every year. They also look healthier and happier. I like the idea that I am respecting each fruit tree's choice on how to grow, instead of imposing my will on it.
Is there an expert plum tree pruner that can give me some advice on how to prune my Santa Rosa Plum tree?
Please see picture below. The picture is taken from the south, so you are looking at the south-facing side of the tree.
-Thanks so much! Brian
In case anyone comes back to this thread... what no-one said is that plum trees and other members of their family such as cherries and damsons should not be pruned in winter as they are prone to silverleaf fungus and should be pruned when in strong growth so that the sap flushes out any spores which settle.
Just put the cards in their christmas stocking and PRESTO! They get it now! It's like you're the harry potter of permaculture. richsoil.com/cards