Saddle up, garden buckaroos!
Today we are going to learn about spurs - fruit spurs, that is!
Fruit spurs are where fruit grows. Sometimes. Sometimes fruit grows on twig tips. And some fruit trees use a mix of the two. This is called their cropping behavior. Knowing which method your tree uses and being able to tell the difference between a leaf bud and fruit spur will help you make better pruning choices when training fruit trees. This is best done while trees are dormant because there are no leaves to block your view.
Leaf buds v. fruit buds
Fruit trees generate two different types of buds: fruit buds and growth buds. Growth buds can become leaves or twigs, while fruit buds hold flowers. On some trees, a cluster of leaves may end up surrounding a fruit bud, but those tend to come later in the season. Growth buds are slender and pointed. They are smaller than fruit buds, as well. Fruit buds tend to be round and fat. In some cases, fruit buds are covered with fuzzy scales. And, many times, they grow on fruit spurs.
What are fruit spurs?
Fruit spurs are stubby little twigs that grow only 1 to 6 inches long. Sometimes they grow singly along a branch, as with peaches, and sometimes they grow in clusters, as on apple trees. Depending on the type of tree, the fruit spurs may produce fruit the first year, the second year, or for several years in succession. Some fruit spurs are productive for 10 years or more!
How to use this chart
The chart above tells you the cropping behavior of many common fruit and nut trees. Using it, you can see that fig trees produce fruit laterally, on long, first year wood. This means that regular annual pruning of various branch lengths will increase fruit production. Apple trees must be treated very differently. Apple fruit buds rarely occur on long shoots, laterally (along its sides) or at the tips. Nearly all apple fruit buds are found at the end of fruit spurs. This means that you would want to avoid pruning those spurs until they have stopped producing fruit altogether. [There are apple varieties that produce fruit at stem tips, called tip-bearers, and others that use a mix of the two, called partial tip-bearers, which is why it’s a good idea to find out as much information as you can about each of your fruit trees.]
The easiest way to tell if your fruit tree produces fruit buds on spurs is to go outside and look.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!