Summer is here, and though the weather may have been somewhat temperamental so far, it’s the perfect time to get out in your garden and give your fruit trees a bit of TLC.
Why prune in summer?
Pruning apple and pear trees in summer lets more sunlight and air reach the fruit. This will improve its size, colour and flavour, make it easier to pick and help defend against diseases and pests.
Summer pruning also helps to ensure good cropping the following year. Removing shoots of this year’s growth encourages the tree to produce more fruiting spurs, resulting in a bigger harvest next year.
Which trees should I prune?
It’s less common for standard, untrained trees, which are usually pruned in winter.
When should I prune?
The best time to prune is generally from mid-July for pears and mid-to-late-August for apples. Add another ten days or so to these timings if you live in the north of the UK.
The exact timings will vary according to the weather, region and growth of the tree. If you’re unsure whether your tree is ready to prune, look at this year’s growth of new shoots.
If the tree is ready to prune, the shoots should have dark green adult leaves rather than small, light-coloured leaves, with a cluster of leaves around the base. The lower part of the shoot (where it joins the trunk) should also be stiff and woody.
How should I prune?
Start by cutting back any new shoots more than 20cm (8in) long. Cut them back to around 7.5cm (3in) long. Make the cut just above a bud or leaf. The resulting stub should have two or three buds.
Ignore any new shoots less than 20cm long – it’s likely these will already carry fruit buds.
Cut back any water shoots right to the branch. These are upright, vigorous shoots that grow straight up from the main branches and tend to form after hard winter pruning.
Water shoots draw a lot of energy from the tree, so only leave one if you want it to become a permanent branch to improve the tree’s shape or replace one that’s been damaged.
If some secondary growth occurs after your summer pruning, remove it in September. If this doesn’t help, leave a few longer shoots to continue growing. These will grow at the expense of any further secondary growth.
Summer pruning: help you fruit trees flourish
Pruning your fruit trees is the perfect job to do on a sunny summer’s day, and should result in a bumper harvest of delicious, juicy apples or pears. Enjoy!