If you want a fruit tree that produces fruit you'll love, you'll probably buy a grafted fruit tree or you Read more
When I first started working with fruit trees, I was surprised to discover that most arborists aren’t big fruit tree fans. At first, I couldn’t figure out why.
Then, during a trip to Portland, Oregon, I met Jayne Lacey. She’s a passionate arborist and fruit tree grower, and she was volunteering at a Portland Fruit Tree Project pruning event. Jayne told me that arborists have a “love-hate relationship” with fruit trees. And for many of them, the scale falls more on the “hate” side of the equation.
“Fruit trees are kind of like children," she says, "You have to pamper them and give them a good upbringing and you have to maintain them all your life!”
Arborists handle major issues with all sorts of other trees. They can climb incredibly tall trees and remove the thickest dead, damaged, or diseased limbs. And often, they can complete these huge jobs in a single visit.
In contrast, a fruit tree can feel like a real nuisance because in order to keep them healthy, you need to go back each year to prune your fruit tree, spray it, and protect it from pests and disease. In short, fruit trees are relatively high-maintenance.
“[Fruit trees] don’t just go off on their own,” Jayne says. “And if they do go off on their own, it can be really overwhelming. The finished product takes a lifetime, and it is a commitment - a lot of people hesitate to make that commitment.”
Another challenge for arborists is that fruit tree owners have high expectations. They want their trees to be beautiful and healthy. And they also want a generous and delicious harvest of organic fruit. And they want this to happen after hiring their local arborist for a one-off visit.
Sadly, that’s just not how fruit trees work.
As Jayne explains so well, we fruit tree growers have to “pamper” our trees to keep them healthy. What does that look like?
A big part of our work will involve specialist fruit tree pruning. We prune our trees each and every year, and we start pruning our fruit trees on planting day!
That seems strange to arborists. Their primary goals, in pruning native and ornamental trees, is removing dead, damaged, diseased and dysfunctional branches.
But when you prune fruit trees correctly, you'll also be removing perfectly healthy branches in order to achieve our main fruit tree pruning goals. They include:
As fruit tree growers, we have other priorities as well:
So, while fruit tree growers are taking care of their high-maintenance fruit trees, arborists are busy pruning all sorts of other trees including large oaks, pines, and maples.
To me, climbing arborists are superheroes. They gear up and they can prune and care for even the tallest trees. But as Jayne Lacey identified above, fruit trees are often an arborist’s kryptonite because their needs are so different from those of native and ornamental trees.
But it doesn't have to be that way. I've created online fruit tree pruning courses so that arborists, gardeners and home growers can learn to care for and prune fruit trees. And each of the courses can be completed in 8 hours or less.
ISA Certified Arborists can also earn continuing education credits (CEUs) after completing these courses.
Here are some of the courses we offer which are perfect for beginner as well as intermediate level growers.
And if you want to save up to $200 more on tuition, consider registering for one of our money-saving bundles.
Fruit tree growers and arborists have one main goal in common: we all want to improve the health of the trees in our urban forest. And if we’re caring for our local trees, let’s not forget our urban fruit trees.
So, whether you’re a home grower who grows fruit trees in your yard, or an ISA Certified Arborist or gardener who helps others care for their trees and plants, I’d love to teach you!
Susan Poizner is an urban orchardist in Toronto, Canada and the author of Grow Fruit Trees Fast and Growing Urban Orchards. Susan trains new growers worldwide through her award-winning fruit tree care training program at Orchardpeople.com. Susan is also the host of The Urban Forestry Radio Show and Podcast and an ISA Certified Arborist.