Fruit trees need proper pruning for a rich and healthy crop

Take some time to observe your beloved apple, pear or cherry tree that you have enjoyed sitting in the shade of over the summer. It needs the extra attention for now it is time to prune it. Follow our advise and next year you will have a healthy fruit tree that produces a good crop.

Indispensible pruning tools

  • Secateurs. Fruit trees are prone to disease. Smooth cuts can prevent diseases from penetrating. The cuts will only be smooth if you use a sharp pair of secateurs.
  • Pruning saw. The pruning saw is needed for thicker branches and should also be sharp.
  • Ladder. For pruning tall fruit trees use a sturdy (safe!) ladder or stepladder.

Keep five leaders on apple and pear trees

Through the years you should keep five main branches (leaders), that sprout at different heights from the trunk and point in different directions. If necessary the branches can be bend down and secured with rope or other strong tying material. The following year these ties can be removed. The side branches are cut back to half their length.

Summer pruning for standards and half standards

To encourage the heart of the tree to fill out you can start pruning in summer. Cut back ¾ of the shoots. The shoots that grow in a continuation of the leaders can be left. Bend the branches out horizontally and secure them. This will encourage the forming of buds. Twigs that grow inward should all be removed.

Plum tree has four leaders

Plum trees are treated almost in the same way as apples and pears. The difference is that plums are pruned in summer and 3 to 4 leaders remain. If necessary, branches can be bend out by wedging a stick between the branches. Plum trees need maintenance pruning once every two years. Only the shoots that grow straight up along the trunk are removed altogether, to keep the heart of the tree open. Just prune the shoots that cut out sunlight.

Bush shape ideal for cherry trees

A cherry grows into a sturdy tree that could easily outgrow an average sized garden. If you actually want to eat cherries you should prune your tree into a bush shape.
This is done as follows:

  • Do not prune the tree after planting.
  • Keep the pyramid to a height of about 2.5 to 3 m.
  • Prune the tree in August, so the pruning cuts will heal better.
  • Keep 5 to 6 leaders spread out over the trunk so that the lower branches also get sufficient sunlight.

Pruning from old to new

Old fruit trees can also be rejuvenated. Remove all branches that are growing inward as well as all damaged and diseased branches. The following year the leaders can be tackled. Cut them all to about the same length. If the pruning cuts are large they should be painted with Arbrex. Many new shoots will develop and this is how you deal with them:

Maintenance pruning for a mature tree

It is important to maintain the balance between the number of fruit bearing branches and growing branches. Also make sure the side branches that grow on the leaders (the branches that form the skeleton of the tree) do not get heavier than the leaders themselves. Keep the main frame of the tree about the same size throughout the years.

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