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Summer Pruning for Fruit Trees - Top Tips Inside!

Usually, formative pruning will take place during winter, when the structure of the tree is most visible. But just because you’re used to this doesn’t mean you should discount the importance of summer pruning on certain plants. Trained fruit trees requiring restriction, such as cordons, fans and espaliers, are particularly important to prune in summer. You can also prune free standing trees in summer to avoid cutting into old wood in the winter.

Why is this important? A few reasons:

  • Fruit ripens better! It’ll also produce a better crop the subsequent year. The less energy your tree dedicates to new branches, the more is reserved for sustaining fruit.
  • They’ll heal quicker! Compared to cutting into old wood, actively growing new wood will recover far faster.
  • The weather’s better! This might not have much to do with the pruning itself, but relaxing outside in the summer is a nicer day than forcing yourself outside for winter work.

So when should you prune?

  • Pears should ideally be pruned around mid-July.
  • Apples can wait until mid-August, however.
  • Plums and Cherries are ripe for pruning during mid-summer, but only on a dry day. Otherwise you risk opening them to infection by fungal diseases like Silver Leaf.

But how should you prune?

Keep track of your new shoots, and wait until the oldest third has started to get woody and stiff. Check which have grown longer than 20cm, and cut them back to three leaves above the basal cluster (this is the cluster of leaves at the base of new shoots). For new shoots coming off existing side shoots, cut back to one leaf above the basal cluster.

Throughout this, be careful to leave smaller shoots. They often have fruit buds at the ends, and you wouldn’t want to limit the next year’s yield. Be especially aware whether your tree is tip-bearing, if you’re pruning an apple tree. Even some of the longer shoots may be set to bear fruit at the tip, and aggressive pruning can destroy any chances of a healthy crop.

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