Pruning Guide

All our trees need pruning after planting, including all stone fruits (plums, cherries etc). The shape and size of the tree is determined by the pruning technique used.

Pruning of Bush Trees: The pruning of open centred bush trees is based on several principles:

* the centre is not retained, allowing a round shape to develop from 5 or 6 well spaced side branches which form the framework of the tree
* all pruning is carried out during the dormant period, from November to March, apart from stone fruits in April
* new shoots are only tipped to reduce their length or to promote branching.
* shoots growing into a vacant space are left unpruned but when a number of shoots are growing together unwanted shoots are removed completely.

Pruning after planting: Reduce all the current years growth including the main stem by one third to one half of its length. Cut only an inch off any short growth. Always cut just above an outward facing bud.

Subsequent pruning: Continue to remove one third to one half of the length of all new wood. Good fruit size and colour together with satisfactory bud formation are all dependent on sunlight penetrating to all parts of the tree. An open habit can be created in an older tree by removing: diseased or dead branches; low hanging branches; very strong upright branches; crossing branches and branches that are more than 4 years old, apart from main framework.

Pruning Dwarf Pyramids: Dwarf pyramids have a centre stem and a framework of branches, which are longer at the bottom than at the top. The ideal shape is similar to a christmas tree.

Pruning after planting: Starting with the lower branches; cut 5 or 6 of them to 10 inches long, if any are less than 10 inches then remove 1 inch from the tip. Try to select equally spaced branches so that there would be a radial symmetry if viewed from above. If the tree has more than 6 side branches then all the upper ones should be trimmed to 6 inches. This forms a second tier. Side branches with narrow angles to the main stem should be removed. If the tree has 2 or more upright shoots at the top, leave the uppermost and cut out the others. Prune the remaining centre branch to 12 inches above the uppermost side branch.

Summer pruning, early August: Pruning at this time will control the size and shape of the tree and help to make it more fruitful. Leave the new leader, otherwise prune all new shoots. Take each main side branch in turn and:

1. Cut the tip shoot (called the branch leader) to 6 inches long
2. Cut any side shoots from branch leader to 4 inches long
3. Cut any shoots growing from side shoots to 2 inches long (with tip bearing varieties leave short shoots of this type unpruned, unless they are longer than 6 inches then prune as described
4. New shoots growing from the main stem should be cut to 6 inches long

Winter pruning: Prune the top upright shoot (left unpruned in previous summer) leaving 8 inches of current years growth.

Subsequent pruning: Repeat the described procedure. As the tree fills out make the cut to half the length ie where you had been cutting to 6 inches now cut to 3.

Espaliers and Fans:

Espalier and fan trained trees are suited to being grown against a wall or on wires. When purchased these trees are semi trained, they require pruning in order to establish a full framework.

Pruning espaliers after planting: Espaliers will have the tiers already established which are at roughly 18 inch intervals, this is the height that your wires will run. In order to produce a third tier cut the main leader just above the third wire. Cut the side branch leaders back by one third. Any side shoots (laterals) from the branch leaders should be reduced to 3 or 4 inches. Any other shoots from the main stem can be removed.

Summer pruning espaliers: Shorten laterals on side branches to 4 inches. Shorten any sub laterals (growing from laterals) to 2 to 3 inches. Do not prune any shoots which are shorter than 8 inches. Do not prune leaders. Tie in main leader and the selected shoots for the third tier. Remove unwanted shoots from central stem and tie in side branch leaders.

This process can be repeated until there are as many tiers as required and side branches have extended as far as required, then prune back new growth to point of origin each year.

Spring pruning fans after planting: Shorten branch leaders by one third. Tie shoots to canes forming a framework (if not already done when planted).

Summer pruning: Pinch shoots not required for branch leaders, back to to 5 inches in June – July. Mid August – September cut these shoots back to about 3 inches. This process can be repeated annually. More branch leaders will need to be tied in to establish a full framework. If the tree becomes too crowded thin out some shoots in August.

Cordons: These trees are pruned so that they have a straight stem which has fruit spurs along its entire length. These are usually planted at an angle of about 45 degrees and trained onto wires. Planted in this way they fruit well and allows a good selection of varieties to be planted in a relatively small area, they can be spaced 2-3ft apart. Pruning follows the same principles as other trained trees.

Tip Bearing Varieties: A small number of apple varieties, all medlars and quinces are tip bearers meaning that the very tip of each extension will bear fruit. These require careful pruning to establish a good framework but don’t let this put you off. Some laterals can be shortened to 3 buds and other shorter laterals can be left to develop fruit buds on the tip. These unpruned laterals can be pruned in later years back to fruit buds nearer the branch. The leader can be shortened by one third to one half.