Go Gardening - - Fruit -

Win­ter is prun­ing time for ap­ple and pear trees. In the first few years of a tree’s life the idea is to en­cour­age a nicely shaped tree with a strong frame­work of branches. On older es­tab­lished trees, prun­ing is all about get­ting light into the tree. More sun means more fruit! Prun­ing is also about re­ju­ve­na­tion - stim­u­lat­ing the growth of younger, more pro­duc­tive fruit­ing branches. On most ap­ple va­ri­eties the best wood for fruit­ing is be­tween one and four years old.

Prun­ing is both a sci­ence and an art. There is no right or wrong way, but fol­low­ing some ba­sic prin­ci­ples is the best route to suc­cess with­out stress.

Prun­ing tools should be clean and sharp. This makes the job eas­ier and min­imises disease.

Start by re­mov­ing dead, dam­aged, and dis­eased branches. Make sure you re­move all of a dis­eased limb, cut­ting be­low the in­fec­tion and check­ing the cut sur­face to en­sure it is clean. Ide­ally, re­move a branch right back to where it joins its par­ent branch, rather than short­en­ing a limb.

Prune for light and air. Prun­ing an ap­ple tree is the op­po­site to prun­ing a hedge. Shear­ing off it’s top will only pro­duce a thicket of new growth, block­ing the light from the lower branches.

Re­move in­ward grow­ing shoots that are crowd­ing the cen­tre of the tree, block­ing light and invit­ing disease.

Re­move shaded spurs from the un­der­sides of large branches if thin­ning. The up­per­most spurs that get more sun grow the best fruit.

Avoid very big cuts where pos­si­ble. As a guide, most prun­ing cuts should be on branches 1-5cm thick.

Be­ware of over-prun­ing. The more you prune a healthy es­tab­lished tree, the more vig­or­ously it grows. Hard prun­ing re­sults in strong up­right branches that crowd the tree and in­hibit fruit­ing. As a rule of thumb, re­move no more than a fifth of the canopy each win­ter.

For over vig­or­ous trees that give too much leafy growth at the ex­pense of fruit, sum­mer prun­ing (in ad­di­tion to win­ter prun­ing) can help to re­duce vigour. Re­move the most vig­or­ous lat­er­als to di­vert the tree’s en­ergy back into fruit­ing.

To re­ju­ve­nate an old ne­glected tree, re­move older branches over a few years, as sud­den se­vere prun­ing can shock the tree into over-vig­or­ous growth.

Be in to win Ar­brex Seal & Heal Prun­ing Paint. De­tails on page 30.

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