Puzzling out Pruning - Apples and Pears

I have been asked by a friend to help her prune her apple trees. She lives in a lovely cottage and has inherited a couple of old quirky trees in the garden. So, armed with shiny new Christmas secateurs, loppers and pruning saw (and of course a steaming cup of tea) we head outside, ready to demystify the art of pruning.

These two trees have not been touched for years so we will have to be careful not to be too enthusiastic and over-prune; the more we cut off the more will grow back, which can do more harm than good, so we’ll take a more moderate approach and tackle about a third a year.

First, we stand back and really look at a tree, especially with its bare skeleton in winter, so you can get a good understanding of the history, the health and how it will grow next year.

Any signs of gnarly canker will be taken out and any other damaged branches.

Then onto planning of the shaping and fruiting. It is best to aim for an open goblet shape that allows lots of light and air to move around the branches to promote growth and reduce disease. So, crossing branches that are rubbing against each other are the next to be removed.

One tree has become rather over-crowed and lopsided, so we make the decision to take off a large branch - this is best done in winter, when the tree is dormant and is storing its energy in its roots. There will be strong re-growth in the spring and we will then remove the new upright water shoots in the summer. To promote bushy growth on the other side of the tree a smaller branch is removed, and the tree is now beginning to look more balanced.

So, we’ll leave the pruning there, for now, and look forward to the blossom in May. The trees may need a bit of a summer prune to encourage more fruiting buds for next year but less vigorous leaf and branch growth.

Time to toast the Wassail and our morning’s work!

Jobs for January

Recycle your Christmas tree so it can be shredded into mulch

Clean pots and greenhouses for the Spring

Check stakes, ties and protection after bad weather

Keep feeding the birds

Inspect stored dahlia and begonia tubers for rot or drying out

Use cold dark days to order seeds ready for planting in March for lots of summer colour!

For Tisbury Focus January 2021

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