Adding new fruit trees to a garden is reasonably easy. Maintaining them properly as they mature is more of a challenge. Centuries of extensive breeding to enhance production of such trees has also increased their reliance on horticultural intervention. Most deciduous fruit trees consequently need specialized dormant pruning during their winter dormancy.
Without adequate dormant pruning, most deciduous fruit trees are unable to support their unnaturally large and unnaturally abundant fruit. Dormant pruning actually enhances the size and quality of fruit. However, it also limits the weight of excessiveness, and confines it to sturdier branch structure. It concentrates resources into fewer fruit of superior quality.
Dormant pruning, or winter pruning, likewise concentrates resources into more docile but healthier vegetative growth. It eliminates or at least diminishes the 4 Ds, which are dead, diseased, damaged and disfigured growth. Confinement of potentially rampant stems not only improves structural integrity, but also limits wasteful production of unreachable fruit.
Almost all deciduous fruit trees, and most nut trees, require specialized dormant pruning. So do grapevines, kiwi vines, berry canes and roses. Evergreen fruit trees, such as citrus and avocados, are exempt for now though, since such pruning promotes new growth that is vulnerable to frost. Most of such trees do not require such aggressive pruning anyway.
Almonds, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums, prunes and all their hybrids are stone fruits of the genus Prunus. Almonds are actually seeds, or stones, of leathery fruits that are merely hulls. Various stone fruits need various degrees of similar pruning. Heavy peaches need aggressive pruning. Lightweight cherries might need only minor trimming, or no pruning at all.
Apples, pears and quinces are pomme fruits that, like stone fruits, need various degrees of similar pruning that conforms to their distinct characteristics. Persimmons, mulberries, pomegranates and figs each need specific types of pruning as well. Familiarity with each of the dormant pruning techniques that each fruit tree in the garden requires is essential.