We have a bunch of Pomegranate trees at the farm. While they go through the ritual of flowering and fruiting each year, barring a few years, we have not got a great crop off them. The trees are now 6 years old. On reading up, and analyzing the situation we realised that they are all over grown, and suffering from a lack of pruning. The reason they gave a good crop one year in their lifecycle was probably because they were at the perfect shape & size in that year!
After reading & researching extensively on how to manage Pomegranate trees in North India, here is what we have learnt.
The Pom tree is not so much a tree, but more of a shrub. Therefore it has to be trimmed regularly to maintain its shape & size as a shrub - not more than 7 feet high.
The ideal time to prune the shrub is winters, when there are no leaves present on the tree. Pruning can be done every other year - does not need to be done annually. While pruning, work towards keeping the centre of the tree open. Remove all dead, diseased and water sucker branches. Cut back bent branches. Leave 4 -5 main scaffolds on the shrub, and remove the rest. The plant needs full sun for good fruit, and for that, the plant should have enough sun and air entering it. Else it may lead to the spread of disease within the plant.
Our pomegranate bushes unfortunately, were terribly overgrown. So we needed to cut them back drastically, and restore their shape and size to that of a bush, as opposed to a ghostly drooping thin tree. We kept 4-5 scaffolds. Cut all water shoots/ suckers which had grown big and straight. Cut back the height of the shrub to 5 feet. We need the foliage to grow within this shrub, and not at the top out of reach. Moreover, the fruit should grow within the shrub so that it does not get exposed and burnt in the direct sun. Remember, the pomegranate fruit grows on new wood. If you want it to grow within the bush, you have to keep pinching the tips of the tiny branches so that new growth comes within (something like a tea bush or any other hedge). The shrub should be green with growth so that the fruits grow within and within arms reach.
See the video below to see how we cut back and rejuvenated a pomegranate shrub at Aanandaa Permaculture farm.
Ah, and one last thing. The pomegranate shrub is very susceptible to infection from cuts and shears. Remember to apply cow dung or Neem leaf paste on not just the cuts, but the entire length of the scaffolds. Just like how our farm help Poli is doing it in the video below.