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Fruit Tree Pruning Courses for Arborists (and Others!)

Published: August 3, 2022
Young woman prunes a fruit tree. Online fruit tree pruning course.
Specialist fruit tree pruning is very different than pruning native or ornamental trees, but it's easy to learn in's online fruit tree pruning courses.

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.

ISA Certified Arborist Jayne Lacey talks about how arborists have a "love-hate" relationship with fruit trees.

Why arborists need to take a fruit tree pruning course

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:

  • Creating a strong, fruit-bearing structure for the fruit tree
  • Spurring growth or to reduce growth in that tree
  • Improving our fruit tree’s health by protecting it from pests and diseases
  • Improving the quality of the harvest
Fruit Tree Care Newsletter
Sign up for our monthly newsletter and we will send you our eBook "Growing Fruit Trees That Thrive." You can unsubscribe at any time.

As fruit tree growers, we have other priorities as well:

  • We carefully choose the fruit trees that we plant, to ensure they will grow and produce well in our unique conditions.
  • We monitor our fruit trees for pest and disease problems, and nip those problems in the bud when we see them, using traps, organic sprays, pruning, and other tools.
  • We learn how to identify nutritional deficiencies so that we can feed our trees appropriately, because over-fertilizing can damage our trees.

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.  

Why Become an ISA Arborist?

Fruit Tree Growers and Arborists – When Shall the Twain Meet?

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.  

Sign up for our fruit tree pruning courses - For the Sake of the Urban Forest

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

Director, Fruit Tree Care Education Online

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 Susan is also the host of The Urban Forestry Radio Show and Podcast and an ISA Certified Arborist.

Susan Poizner and the cover of her eBook Grow Fruit Trees That Thrive


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