The mysterious art of pruning fruit trees…
Why prune fruit trees?
Well it’s simple really, you need to maximise the amount of sunlight that gets in to your tree. The fruit requires sunlight to ripen and the leaves need sunlight to keep the tree in good health.
You also need to reduce congestion within your tree to prevent damp micro-climates forming that provide a home for fungal disease.
When do I prune apple trees?
Apple trees can be pruned in the winter when they have dropped their leaves, around late November – late March. This is a good time to prune because you can easily see the overall shape of the tree and identify which bits need to come out clearly.
You can also prune apple trees in August/September. This is known as summer pruning and is the best way to manage trained apple trees such as cordons and espaliers. Summer pruning involves cutting new shoots back hard to just a couple of buds, keeping the tree tidy and avoiding more vigorous growth that could occur if pruned in the winter.
Pruning pear trees follows the same timings as apple trees.
When do I prune plum trees?
Plum trees differ from apples and should not be pruned in the winter. This is the same for all other stone fruit – nectarines, peaches, cherries, apricots. They are all susceptible to the fungal disease silver leaf. The trees can become infected through pruning cuts made in the winter when the spores of this disease are most active. Plums and other stone fruit are also susceptible to bacterial canker.
Because they are more prone to disease than apples and pears, the pruning of plums, nectarines, peaches, cherries and apricots should generally be kept to a minimum. If you feel pruning is necessary, for example if they are being trained as fans, wait until the tree is starting to come in to leaf, from late May onwards through July. During this time pruning cuts will heal quickly, minimising the chance of infection.
How to prune fruit trees?
Consider some of these points before you start pruning and refer to them whilst you are pruning.
- Remove branches to maximise sunlight reaching to every part of the tree and fruit
- Favour branches that radiate outwards
- Remove branches with weak, narrow branch unions – favour strong, wide branch angles
- Remove branches that hang below the horizontal
- Maintain a balance of old and young wood
Perhaps you would like some advice, perhaps you would like me to prune your trees, or perhaps you would like me to show you how to do it yourself? All of these things are possible! Contact me here.