1. When should I prune?
Most fruit trees should be pruned when dormant, in the winter, between November and early March. An exception for this are ‘stone fruit’ such as Apricots, Plums, Cherries and Peaches. Stone fruit trees should be pruned in summer, when the sap is rising, to avoid diseases such as ‘silver leaf’; a fungal disease. Silver leaf infects the wood through the wounds, causing a silvering of the leaves followed by the death of the branch.
Pruning in the winter is a good rule of thumb. Although fruit trees can be pruned throughout the year, depending on the type of growth you are trying to achieve.
2. How often should I prune my fruit tree?
Once you are happy with the height and spread of your tree. Pruning should be completed annually (every year) or biennially (every two years) in order to maintain a healthy crown spread and a good crop of fruit.
3. How should I prune my fruit tree?
Always use a sharp pair of secateurs to ensure pruning cuts are correct, as poor tools can cause branches and to tear, leading to wounds on the tree that may attract pests and disease. Always use the suitable tool for the correct size of cut. If you are struggling to use the tool on the branch, you should probably use a larger one, perhaps a pruning saw.
Shorten the previous years growth on each main branch by approximately a third, leaving a bud facing the required direction to preferred regrowth in the spring.
- Prune the vigorous new shoots.
- Keep the shape of the tree balanced. Don’t allow unsupported lateral branches to get too big as they may snap out under weight.
- Keep the height of the tree low, unless they offer a privacy or a screen. Remember, you won’t be able to reach the apples at the top.
- Prune and remove any branches that rub onto each other and any that are growing toward the centre of the tree.
Frequently asked questions…
Can I prune my fruit trees in summer?
Yes. Summer pruning is common with apples and pears. It’s quite typical with restricted growth forms such as cordon, fan and espalier. When pruning in the summer it is good practice to prune when the bottom third of the new shoots are stiff and woody.
Mid-July to the end of August is a good time to aim for, in order to reduce the possibility of secondary growth.
Do I need to feed my Apple trees any fertilizer?
Newly planted fruit trees should be mulched around the base of the tree for the first three or four years annually in late winter to early spring with a balanced fertilizer. High amounts of potassium is essential for healthy bud and fruit development with apple and pear trees. Stone fruit trees require additional nitrogen fertilizers for growth.
My apple tree is really overgrown. Can we get it small again?
Renovating old fruit trees is a big task, and should be carried out by a skilled, qualified and experienced Arborist. Heavy crown reductions usually involve a large number of heavy branches being removed and not pruning correctly can lead to disease and decay. Ideally it should be done in stages, as pruning back too hard in one year will almost certainly encourage vigorous excessive un fruitful growth.