I know you don't want to think about this—it's cold outside, after all—but now would be a good time to start pruning your fruit trees. They're dormant. They're waiting. You might as well bundle up and get it over with.
What are we trying to accomplish here, you may grumble. Well, since you asked, pruning will shape a tree into something beautiful with a structure that has integrity to better withstand the effects of wind, snow, and other weather conditions that damage branches. And by removing dead or diseased wood, you will make a tree healthier. Don't forget your gloves, by the way.
Above: Tools of the trade: use loppers and a pruning knife or saw (for thicker branches). For years, I've used a pair of Swiss made Felco 22 Loppers similar to the ones pictured above. Capable of easily cutting branches with a diameter of up to 1.8 inches, a pair of loppers is $170.04 from Felco Store. Photograph via The Little Ragamuffin.
Above: The first step is to get rid of the clutter. Suckers are thin branches that sprout haphazardly from a trunk or larger support branches; they make a tree look like it has a Sideshow Bob haircut. Use loppers to remove them at their base. Photograph via The Little Ragamuffin.
Above: Remove water sprouts, common on many varieties of fruit trees, by clipping them off close to the trunk. Photograph by Menudujour via Flickr.
Above: Prune older trees first and wait until winter is nearly over before you prune younger, more fragile trees. The harder you prune a tree, the less fruit it will produce next season. Prune older trees lightly and reserve your greater enthusiasm for shaping younger, more malleable trees. Photograph via Eat Well Farm.
Above: You can prune older, thicker pear and apple tree branches with a pruning knife or saw, as at Organic Garden in Ryton, UK. In my garden, I use an all-purpose Silky New Mebae Pruning Saw with a wooden handle and sheath, available for $47.90 from Hida Tools. Photograph by Charles Budd via Flickr. (N.B.: Looking for a pruning knife? See "5 Favorites: The Best Pruning Knives."
Above: A well-pruned apple tree via Barbolian.
N.B.: For more pruning tips, see "5 Favorites: Elegant Espalier in the Winter Garden."