when and how to prune our plum tree

We live in Sacramento, California, and I have a plum tree that is so tall that we couldn't pick most of the fruit this past season. I had my boys whack off the top branches a couple years ago and that seemed to have made it worse. All the plums from the new growth were small, yellow and inedible; they didn't even look like plums. How and when should we prune this tree?
Submitted by BHGPhotoContest

You didn't say when the top branches were whacked off; you might have done it too early in the season. There are lots of reasons that fruit trees don't bear edible fruit, or a lot of it: a late frost that damaged buds for the season;  heavy winds that dried out the buds; inadequate cross-pollination; pruning before the June fruit-drop. Prune after June. Too soon, and you might be "whacking off" fruit buds. Also, if you happened to "top" the tree--hacking off the ends of branches--those branches will never grow back. Trees grow from the roots. You might have effectively kiled the tree. That kind of stress could result in inedible fruit.


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