Best times to prune trees, plant trees

When is the best time to prune the peach trees?

— Mary

The traditional time to prune fruit trees is late winter or very early spring just before the tree breaks dormancy. Usually around here that means March sometime. The actual time will vary a bit depending on the weather.

There is a school of thought that the best time to prune stone fruits like peach, plum, cherry and apricot is late summer. Doing it that time of the year reduces the amount of “bleeding” from pruning wounds in the spring. The downside of doing it then is that it’s harder to see the complete structure of the tree because those pesky leaves are in the way! Also, you certainly don’t want to prune your peach until after harvest!

I’ve come to the conclusion that the differences between pruning in late summer or early spring are pretty minimal and that it doesn’t make that much difference when you do it, it matters how you do it. Make sure you have good direction before you start cutting. The CSU Extension Office has some great materials available. Also, the CSU Research Station on Orchard Mesa has a hands-on pruning seminar every spring that you can take advantage of.

Now, I just said that when you prune doesn’t matter that much, but there are times of the year that I don’t like to prune fruit trees. Of course spring isn’t that great because you’re cutting off flowers and potential fruit. But I especially don’t like pruning in the fall. Pruning is a growth stimulant to the plant; it’s natural for the plant to push out new growth to replace what was cut off. In the fall I want my plants to be slowing down, getting ready for a long winter’s nap. I don’t want to take the chance that my pruning might cause the plant to push out growth this time of year when early frosts can damage that succulent new growth.


We are thinking of adding a few nut trees. We understand that walnuts, pecans and pistachios will grow here in the valley. Do you know if that is factual? Any information would be appreciated.

— Nancy


There are a number of nut trees that can be grown in western Colorado. Walnuts are probably the most common. We can grow both black walnut and English walnut here. Black walnuts are plenty cold hardy, but you’re better off to opt for a heartier variety of English walnut. The old standby is a variety called “Carpathian.” It’s been grown locally for 30 or 40 years at least.

There are also a number of pecans that grow in the valley. You’ll need two varieties of pecan to get nut production. You want an early pollen shedding variety and a late pollen shedding variety. Pecans are a bit pickier about the soil they grow in, so do a good job amending the soil when you plant them by mixing in a good amount of decomposed organic matter.

Both walnuts and pecans require a lot of patience for nut production. They won’t begin producing usually until they’re 8 to 10 years old.

Almonds are also grown here occasionally. They’re close cousins to peach trees, so hardiness and care isn’t much of an issue. Like pecans, most need a second variety for pollination. There are a few self-fertile varieties available. The biggest problem we have with almonds is that they bloom very early — often before the apricots do, so it’s not uncommon to lose your crop to a late frost. One variety out there is “Hall’s Hardy.” It blooms later than most other varieties, so you’re more likely to get a crop, but the shells on the nuts are rock-hard, kind of like a black walnut!

There are a handful of pistachios in the valley, but I consider them to be pretty marginally cold hardy. A cold winter will usually kill or freeze the plant down to the ground. You’ll need a male and a female to get nuts (and those only on the female). They’re a small, almost shrubby tree.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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