In the last of this pruning blog series, I want to share my recommendations for pruning fruit trees that produce fruit on second year wood. Hopefully (!) by now, you will have attempted to prune your lemon or fig tree.
With the moon descending, it is a great time to prune over the next week or so. When the moon is in this phase, the sap is not running in the plants and the energy is down in the trunk heading towards the roots, so this is why it is a good time to prune your trees. Also, a lot of fruit trees are going into their dormant time where they rest before the spring growth.
A focus on plums, peaches, pears, nashi, nectarine, apricot, apple
Plums, peaches, nectarine and apricot are known as stone fruit. These trees particularly like being pruned in the shape of a vase, as this enables good air flow through the tree and also prevents branches rubbing on each other and causing damage when bearing fruit. It can help with pest and disease build up and enable easier pollination when in flower.
Please check your varieties as, with new tree grafts coming out each season and dwarf varieties being bred, it is difficult to define the pruning on these. There may be specific guidelines associated, so it pays to do some research.
Most peaches and nectarines produce some flowers on the growth of the previous season’s wood, so it is best not to prune all of the tips of the previous season’s growth and wait to see where your flowers are. You can always do a spring prune of the branches that don’t have flowers.
Top tip: It is important to maintain your vase shape and prune any branches that are facing inwards as these can prevent good air flow.
Apricots form their fruit on spurs. The spurs can produce fruit for up to three or so years and only need refreshing when they don’t produce fruit anymore, so you can cut back all new growth on these unless you are wanting to grow new fruiting branches.
When you buy a new tree, be sure to prune the central leader (the highest branch in the middle of the plant that goes straight up)off when you plant it, as this will start to create a strong framework for your tree to grow from. Always remember to prune at a 45 degree angle as this will allow the water to run off and not sit and rot your branch. Prune all broken or damaged branches first and the ones you don’t want to regrow, make sure you apply Organic pruning paste.
Plums – It is advisable not to prune your plums in winter, as they can get infected with the silver leaf disease, a fungal disease that can enter through the new cut of your tree after pruning. I tend to prune my tree the same as above, but more in the spring season for this reason. If pruning large old branches or water shoots that you are going to put a pruning paste on, this will be fine to do in winter, though remembering not to take more than a third of the tree. Some big old plums that haven’t been pruned for years will benefit from some limbs being removed to produce new growth and give the tree a new lease of life.
Apples and pears are known as pip fruit.
These trees produce best when they have four or five main branches for fruiting; anymore, and it will cause branch and fruit rub, which in turn encourages weakness and pest and disease. When pruning young apple and pear trees, it is best to prune not for fruit, but for shape, as this will be your framework for the life of your tree and will get you off to a good start, encouraging strong branches to hold all your future fruit. A bit like the foundations of a house… Prune the young branches just above an outward facing bud at a 45 degree angle, and shorten the central leader to create a good shape.
Top tip: in the first year, remove all fruit as this will enable the tree to become much stronger and form a better root system.
With older apple and pear trees, the aim is to remove 10-20% of the whole canopy. One of the most important things to remember when pruning fruit trees is to work evenly around the tree and take a step back often to look at the shape of your tree. If you prune too hard you can encourage vigorous regrowth resulting in water shoots (branches that will shoot straight up quick and fast). If these are not helpful for the structure of your tree, prune these off and apply organic pruning paste.
Top tip: When pruning, always do so above the bud which is facing outwards, otherwise the branches will go inwards.
Bonus tip: Clean your pruning equipment between each tree – this is very important. I simply use meths on a cloth. This will prevent disease spreading from tree to tree and could be your saving grace.
I received a wonderful response to the special promo code on my Winter Pruning Bundle, and for those that missed out, I have decided to offer it once more for this weekend only. If you still need to get your organic pruning products to help you care for your trees this season, I am pleased to extend a 15% discount off this handy bundle.
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