Telephone 0161 440 8060
Wholesale plant nursery serving the industry for over 40 years

See our Latest Stock

Download our stock list for our comprehensive range

CLICK NOW >>

Find the
Perfect Plant

Browse our comprehensive plant library
for inspiration

CLICK NOW >>

Five top tips for the winter pruning of fruit trees

Apple and pear trees trained as free-standing bushes are best pruned every winter to ensure a good cycle of fruiting wood. January is a great time to carry out this garden maintenance task. Why do you need to prune established fruit trees? Well, trees that are not pruned become less productive and congested with old branches. Unfortunately many gardeners are scared of pruning. They fear they might damage or inadvertently harm the tree by excessive pruning. But these fears are unfounded, as with a little help and information pruning is not all that difficult. So here are Ladybrook Nursery’s 5 top tips for pruning apple and pear trees.

How much should you remove?

Ideally you should aim to take between 10-20 per cent of the overall canopy off in any one winter. To ensure that you prune evenly, it is best to work your way around the tree to produce an even and attractive shape. The trick is to take off just enough. If you fear your pruning maybe being a little too enthusiastic, then stop. If more branches still need to be removed, you can always do that next winter.

Generally speaking, the more you prune; the stronger the regrowth – if the tree is healthy. However if you prune too hard your tree is likely to produce vigorous upright branches called ‘watershoots’. The biggest problem with watershoots is that they have a habit of crowding the crown. If your tree already has watershoots, they should be pruned back by about a third to encourage branching. If in doubt, remove watershoots from their point of origin.

Know your goals

Your ultimate aim is to take out a bit of old wood each winter, to stimulate new growth. But the majority of the wood that fruits best should be quite young – that is one to four years old. Your pruning should also aim to create an open centre to your tree. This allows more light into the canopy to ripen the shoots and fruit, and improves air movement which discourages diseases.

Avoid drastic pruning

Try to stagger your pruning cuts throughout the canopy. That way, the regrowth too will be even. Don’t be tempted to only prune the top branches, as this is where all the new growth will shoot up from. All you’ll be left with is a thicket of young, non-fruiting shoots that you’ll probably end up pruning off every year in exasperation. Think of pruning more as a thinning out process, where you selectively remove or shorten branches here and there as you move around the tree.  Focus on areas where the growth seems more crowded.

Avoid very big and very little pruning cuts

Most of your pruning cuts will be to branches 1-5cm in diameter. A fully pruned tree might only need 10-20 pruning cuts in total. If your fruit trees are very old, try to resist the temptation to prune off large limbs. If you do that you increase the risk of decay. As a general rule, think twice before cutting into branches that are more than 10-12cm in diameter. If you must prune those branches, trace them away from the tree to see if there are narrower sections, perhaps where it forks, and prune there instead. Avoid leaving a stub.

Do you need to use a pruning paint?

No, there is no need to use a pruning paint for cuts on apple or pear trees. However, the use of pruning paints is sometimes advisable on plums, cherries and other members of the Prunus family as these are particularly susceptible to disease through pruning cuts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get inspired,
read our blog ...

Help Hibernating Butterflies in the Winter

Have you ever thought about what happens to hibernating butterflies in the winter? As a landscaper, this is something you should take into consideration. It’s a difficult season for them, but a butterfly house could be the perfect solution! Butterflies are beautiful in sunnier months, but in winter, they need a place to hibernate.

The Great Pumpkin Harvest

The final transition to autumn is a wonderful time of year, with one last bloom before the winter takes over. For many people, one of the highlights of this season is when the large leaves of pumpkins and squash finally die back to reveal the fruits beneath. It’s the moment you discover that all of…
read more >>

2019 Garden Trends to Watch Out for with GLEE

At the beginning of September, GLEE, the horticultural trades show in Birmingham, demonstrated the future for gardeners and landscapers across the UK. We are seeing a rise in products designed to make gardening and landscaping easier. What’s more, we are now seeing the rise of the urban garden! The average UK garden size is 50…
read more >>

Common Chilli Plant Problems

Many people are getting into the habit of growing their own edibles in their garden. However, some edibles can be quite difficult to grow, especially for beginners. The chilli plant is a common struggle for many newbies. Growing Chillies is a rewarding endeavour as you can make delicious recipes straight from the garden. There are,…
read more >>