Pruning fruit trees improve yield and quality.
Winter pruning when trees are dormant promotes vigorous growth, so prune then to encourage a good basic structure for a young tree or when trying to adjust the shape of a mature tree.
Summer pruning inhibits growth so now is the best time to maintain a tree’s shape and to keep the tree to a reasonable size for netting and harvesting.
Summer is also a good time to prune stonefruit so they can heal while still in active growth – the best time is immediately after fruiting, especially for apricots.
Tino shows how he approaches pruning on a greengage plum (Prunus domestica) at The Patch.
Before starting, make sure your secateurs and loppers are clean of fruit sap, which can harbour diseases, and sharpened, as blunt tools can rip and damage branches. It’s a good idea to have a small spray bottle of methylated spirits with you when pruning, so you can spray your tools between trees and avoid spreading diseases.
Become familiar with what a fruit spur looks like – a clustered rosette of buds – to make sure you’re not cutting off all your harvest!
What to do:
1. Remove the suckers – produced by trees as a response to damaged roots. Not only do suckers make it hard to access the tree, but they draw away energy. Cut them as low as possible so they don’t reshoot.
2. Remove any dead, damaged or diseased branches.
3. Remove any branches that are touching the ground.
4. Trim off any inward-facing branches that will reduce airflow in the centre of the tree, making the tree more prone to pests and diseases.
5. Shorten other branches. Tino shortens long, lanky growth that might break off if covered in heavy fruit, but he cuts back to a new bud that will produce new growth. He earmarks another side shoot he will cut back to next year.
6. If you have thin branches (pencil thickness) that then divide again and are carrying lots of fruit spurs Tino recommends reducing the load by cutting off one side of the divided section. This is called singulation. It reduces the risk of the branch breaking under the weight of fruit and means the fruit that does grow will be slightly larger.
7. Cut back long, vertical growth quite hard – this won’t harm the tree and will make it easier to cover the tree with netting if necessary.
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