Last weekend, I visited my mom and returned home with the bed of my truck filled with fruit tree prunings. What to do with this stuff?

Over the years, I’ve done four things with it. Most likely, one of these four ways of dealing with fruit tree prunings will suit your present circumstances.

Green waste disposal

First, if you want to make your prunings disappear, so to speak, then you can stuff them into a bin for green waste and the trash company will take them to the landfill and probably chip and compost them to later be used in landscapes throughout the area. This is a good option if your situation is like my mom’s, which is that she already has ample mulch under her fruit trees.

Chop and drop

If you don’t, then you might use your pruners to chop up the branches and leave them under the very trees from which they came. This creates a cycle of nutrients, where the branches break down to feed the trees.

(Indeed, there are many more benefits to keeping such a mulch under your fruit trees. See my post, “Using wood chips as mulch under fruit trees.”)

Chopping up some prunings to leave as mulch under a nectarine tree.

I used to treat most of my prunings this way, and I still do this when I only prune a tree lightly. The only exceptions are with trees that have thorny branches, such as lemons or pomegranates, because later you’ll get one of those thorns poked through the sole of your shoe. These days I send such thorny prunings off in the green waste bin.

Sharp and stiff tips of pomegranate branches.

Pile prunings

Yet if you have more than a few fruit trees, or you’re reducing the size of a tree dramatically, then chopping up all the prunings can take a long time and wear your hands down. As my own home orchard expanded, I began to have trouble keeping up with the hand chopping and started piling the prunings. Later, I would access the pile for firewood or sticks for the kids to play with, but mostly it became a nuisance.

Squirrels, gophers, rabbits and other animals that cause problems in a garden make homes in and under such piles of branches. The piles can also be unsightly. And they might be a fire hazard. I don’t pile my prunings anymore. Here’s what’s left of the pile I built for years:

Bottom center: what’s left of my old pile of tree trimmings.

Chip for mulch

I began chipping most of my prunings. If you also have more than a few fruit trees, it might be worthwhile for you, as well, to invest in a small chipper.

(For more on that decision, see my post, “Should you get a wood chipper?”)

The chips make great mulch under the trees or on paths elsewhere in the yard. They are chopped up more finely than you’ll ever do by hand. I also use the chips as bedding for our chickens. Unlike in my mom’s smaller yard, I can’t get enough wood chips.

Chipping the prunings from my mom’s fruit trees, to be used in my yard.

One mom’s trash is her son’s treasure.

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