Winter prune fruit trees.

What is pruning?

Pruning is the process of removing vegetation from a plant.

what is training?

Training is the process of manipulating a plant towards a desired outcome. This can be achieved via many methods, the most common being pruning.

why prune?

Correct pruning and training will increase the health and vigour of your trees. It increases light for fruit ripening and airflow decreasing the occurrence of pests and diseases. Thus increasing the yield from your trees. You can also train the tree to be the right height for picking, or be more efficient in its space. Training and pruning correctly will decrease the necessary amount of pruning throughout the life of the tree. The first five years of a trees life are the most critical for achieving the best shape for the health, appearance and productivity of the tree.

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why in winter?

Prune apple and pear trees in late winter before the sap begins flowing through the tree again. Pruning when the sap is following is more likely to spread disease (fireblight in the apple and pears case). Winter is also the time to easily see the shape of the tree. Pruning earlier than late winter can increase the chances of drying out and dieback. Some pruning to reduce size of new growth may be required in spring or summer.

However, do not prune stonefruit in winter this will increase the chance of contracting silver leaf disease. So pruning in summer after fruiting is better.

what do i need?
  • For a start a dry sunny day, preferably not too windy. Rain, humidity and wind can all help spread disease.
  • Sharp secateurs. Sharpen with sharpeners or a file.
  • Alcohol – to clean your tools between pruning each different tree. This stops you spreading disease with your tools.
  • A pruning saw. You can use loppers too if you have them. But a pruning saw will be enough.
  • Maybe a ladder and a sheet to collect your cut-offs – for putting in the compost bin of course.

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how to prune apples and pears

It all starts from before acquiring your tree. Look at your space and decide how to fill it. This will lead you to buy the right  sized tree so you won’t be having to reduce it’s size every year. This will create more shoots which will lead to more pruning.

The most popular training technique of apples or pears is the central leader technique. A central leader tree has one main trunk with evenly spaced laterals down the trunk and a clear base in a triangular shape. This training technique lets the maximum light and air through the tree.

  • Start by remove the three d’s; dead, damaged and diseased wood.
  • Remove any branches that are competing to be the main leader.
  • Then remove any lateral branches from the trunk that are too close to another lateral. Creating an even distribution of laterals along the main stem.  You also want to create an even spacing of branches around the circumference of the tree.
  • Remove any small laterals that are growing at the bottom of the tree, keep doing this each or every other year to raise the height of the canopy to the desired height. You will need at least 80cms clearance to stop lower branches touching the ground when full of fruit.
  • Of those lateral stems remove any branches that are growing towards the ground, the centre of the tree or are crossing another branch.  Imagine the branches are palms with fingers spread out parallel to the ground. Everything not creating that shape can be pruned.
  • Once you’ve got the framework set up, you can prune the growth on the framework back to two or three year old growth. Unless you wish to further the framework. Pruning your growth like this means that branches will not get too long and heavy when full of fruit. When established you can also reduce the amount of fruit on longer branches by spur pruning.

You want something that looks like this:

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You can choose other techniques such as vase training. This creates an open shape letting in light, whilst keeping the branches lower. This makes picking and maintaining your tree easier. Other training techniques include espalier, step over, cordon and fan training. These techniques can save space but require yearly upkeep.

how to prune stone fruit

As mentioned earlier, prune stone fruit trees in summer. Stone fruit trees rarely need much pruning. Look for the three d’s and aim to train a vase shaped tree which stone fruit trees naturally take to.

Do this by removing the the central leader and focusing on branches that will create a low spreading vase shape. Again remove any crossing branches or branches growing towards the centre. Again you will want to create a trunk that is at least 80cm. This creates better airflow and space between the moisture of the ground which is not favourable for trees such as apricots.

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how to prune other cropping trees

The principles of training a healthy tree are mostly the same and easily applicable to most trees. Follow the following principles:

  • Removing the three d’s
  • Removing crossing or ill placed branches.
  • Decide on the height of the bottom branch
  • Look for evenly spaced branches
  • Direct growth of tree by pruning to an upward, outward facing bud.
  • Decide how you want it to eventually look.

You can pretty much get away with using these principles on any tree. But always check first, once you prune a branch you can’t get it back.

who can prune my trees

Currently we do not offer a pruning service. However we do recommend Jimmy from Royal Trees for all your tree pruning needs. Mention our recommendation and you’ll get  5% discount!

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