Summer Pruning Fruit Trees

In contrast to the more traditional winter pruning, summer pruning (especially for fruit trees) has many advantages:

> the weather conditions make it more enjoyable

> if trees have a visibly heavy crop, heavier pruning can be used to lighten the crop load and encourage some replacement growth

> pruning helps to cure trees that have the tendency to ‘biennial bear’ (every other year)

> stone fruit (cherries, plums etc) will also suffer fewer disease problems if pruned when in leaf

> it is the most effective way to contain tree size

> it is essential to prune in the summer when maintaining ‘trained’ fruit trees

Why do we need to prune?

> to remove unwanted parts i.e. shoots, branches, roots, fruit buds

> to let in sunlight and air – removing congested and crossing branches enables the tree to produce better quality fruit – in appearance, size and flavour

> to reduce pest and disease by removing damaged or diseased wood

> to limit the size and shape to the space allotted

Informal pruning

The pruning of fruit trees can be approached in a very detailed and precise way or in a more relaxed manner. It all depends on your own personality as a gardener and the tree form you wish to grow.

The more informal, freestanding forms such as bushes, half standards and standards, need less attention to detail.
If trees are non-productive, be careful not to prune too hard in he belief that this will encourage fruiting. It is better to prune lightly and tie down strong, upright branches. This will encourage the formation of goof fruit bud for the following spring.

It is better to prune a little each year than to take drastic action after neglect. A continual renewal of young replacement branches is possible and better for regular fruiting potential each year.

– Apple and Pear – anytime and hard

– Apricot, Cherry, Damson, Gage, Nectarine, Peach and Plum – summer only and lightly

– Medlar and Quince – anytime and lightly

– Walnuts – avoid pruning if possible

How to prune

At the end of each branch, cut the lead shoot back by half, to just after a leaf. You are only cutting this season’s growth. This will encourage side shoots and help to limit the tree spread.

Along each branch, cut back all side shoots right back to just two or three buds from the base of the current season’s growth. This will encourage short fruiting spurs to form.

In short – have a go! More good can be achieved than harm, whatever the saw cut or secateur snip!

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