Fruit trees crop late in the season, from September to October , and you can store the fruit if you do it right until around Christmas to January although eating apples and pears within the first week or two fresh from the tree is always the best, crispest fruit.
Now that we are reaching the latter stages of the harvest and leaning towards the dormant period (from November to March), it’s pruning time for apples and pears – unless they are espaliers, fans or candelabras which are pruned in summer. Don’t prune the stone fruits such as plums, almonds or cherries as these are susceptible to silver leaf disease if pruned in winter.
So, why do we prune fruit trees? Two main reasons; to develop and maintain a strong framework, and to encourage blossoming and a good harvest.
A strong framework of branches is required to support fruit, which at cropping time can be very heavy and will snap weaker branches in two. Ideally, you want an open canopy that you can see through, allowing good air circulation which is important for disease prevention. As well as this, you need sunlight to get to all of the tree to allow the fruit to ripen.
You will need; secateurs and loppers or small saw.
Stand back and take a good look at the tree before you dive in. Examine the shape. If it’s getting too big for the space, you might need to cut back some of the top growth; a telescopic loppers can reach higher branches. Remove any suckers and any water shoots – straight little stems that pop up vertically on branches – as these are non-productive. See the diagram above for guidance.
You will often find branches crossing each other, kissing cousins as we call them, these should be removed as they can lead to disease. Anything that has died or doesn’t look good should also be removed. And remove branches where needed to open up the shape of the tree and allow light and air in.
Remember, too, much pruning in one season can stress a tree so little and regular is the key here. Now you can expect a bumper, healthier crop next year if the weather plays ball too!