by Kevin Stevens & Joni T. Diserens
Overall the prospective pruner should be able to answer questions directly and with supporting knowledge. Beware of someone who won't admit their limitations; the "I can do anything" response.
Questions (& Why the Question is important)
- How long have you been pruning?
Excellence in fruit tree pruning comes only from having seen a lot of fruit trees in various situations over several years. This is not book learning but field apprenticing.
- Who did you learn from?
Lowell Cordas has apprenticed many of the fruit tree pruners in the area. He teaches very practical, pragmatic techniques that have learned through experience from long-time local farmers. University training programs are good but not the same as pragmatic, hands on experience.
- Will you be able to prune my trees each year?
Fruit trees need annual pruning in order to maintain shape and production. Sticking with someone you like ensures consistency of approach.
- Do you recommend summer or winter pruning?
Summer pruning has become preferred over winter pruning by many orchardists. Right after the fruit is harvested, they are able to correct for anything happening with the fruit production which can't be seen during the winter. Diseases such as brown rot can often be prevented through proper pruning. Fruit tree pruners are also more available during the summer and able to work with your schedule.
An additional benefit of pruning right after the harvest, some fruit tree pruners will harvest the fruit while they are up in the tree. A two-fer! You're then welcome to share the fruit with your friends, neighbors and the hungry.
- How long will it take to bring this fruit tree down to a height that is manageable or where I can harvest myself?
For a very overgrown tree, it may take 3-5 years to take the tree down to a manageable size depending upon the situation. "Hacking" the tree will severely affect production, aesthetics, health and longevity of fruit trees.
- Will you clean up the trimmed branches? Or, Can I clean up the trimmed branches?
A choice to consider. A fruit tree pruner should be know how to properly recycle the yard waste or leave the job for you if you'd like to save money.
- Will I get more fruit?
No pruner can guarantee fruit production. Fruit production is as much in the hands of mother nature as any man. However, a knowledgeable fruit tree pruner can help to bias the trees toward more fruit or less, larger fruit or more quantity of fruit", etc. In other words they should be able to demonstrate an understanding of different styles of pruning as well as recognize the different needs of the owner and act accordingly.
Once you've decided on a fruit tree pruner...
"One thing the homeowners can do to help is to have the area clear from objects that would restrict access to the tree(s). It's not necessary to rake and clean thoroughly under the trees, this will need to be done afterwards anyway. Although removing doggy "gifts" is especially appreciated."