Every year, every fruit tree on the farm has to be pruned. Pears & blue plums can be pruned anytime throughout the winter. Sweet cherries, red & yellow plums are usually pruned towards spring, while peaches & nectarines wait until late May or even early June for their trim.
Here's a picture of me pruning pears on my "Girette" which is the brand name of my pruning lift, or cherry picker, or power ladder, or whatever you want to call it. I call it a wonderful machine that saves a lot of time & energy. Compared to pruning with a ladder this is a breeze!
My Girette is about 30 years old but still does it's job - at least it helps me keep a close relationship with my friend, the local farm mechanic. He's called on usually once or twice a season to keep things going. The actual cutting of branches is done with hydraulic pruners. These can be trouble and their parts are no longer available. The other day they broke on me - I couldn't buy the necessary piece and had to improvise. So far, so good. Maybe I can get through another season with them?
Pruning is both an art & a science. The science part is cutting the right amount of branches off. Too many branches mean lots of fruit, but it will be small. Not enough sunlight will reach the fruit to give it flavour and branches could break from the heavy crop. Too few branches means too few fruit - but it will be large! The optimum number of branches means lots of sunshine reaching the fruit to give colour & sweet flavour, and enough leaves to provide food to grow & size the crop. Dead or diseased branches must also be removed, and consideration given to driving equipment down the rows and allowing ladders and people in for harvest.
Here's a picture of the same plum tree before & after pruning, to give a visual of what I'm trying to explain.
On a crisp, cold, winter day, or a sunny, almost warm spring day, pruning the fruit trees is a great job that I really enjoy. I'm almost done now. Then comes pruning raspberries - another whole story, and not nearly so pleasant or enjoyable. Why my back aches even talking about it!