Pruning and Aftercare of Fruit Trees
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If planting maiden trees for standards prune off all lower branches and leave the main leader of the tree undisturbed to 'run on' the first year. Thereafter when the tree has reached approx 7' 6" a further cleaning up of the stem to 5' 6" can take place. The tree will form a natural head over a period of time. In circumstances where a maiden tree is over 6' 6" the tree can have its top pruned out at planting time. This will encourage the development of side branches in the first year.
Two Year Straight Lead Trees
After planting any tree over 6' 6" can be topped off at this height and all side branches can be removed up to 4' 6" in year one and 6' 6" at the end of year two. Where a straight lead is smaller then treat as a maiden.
After planting, reduce all branches in the head of the tree by one third. This will reduce planting shock and encourage the formation of fruiting laterals.
PRUNING IN LATER YEARS
It is best to take a simple approach to pruning later on. In the past very little pruning was ever carried out and yet trees still produced fruit year on year. Very little pruning should be carried out in the early years after the formative pruning explained above. It is better to wait for the tree to crop before pruning. Here are a few tips:
Apples & Pears
When you do prune remove a small proportion of the branches back to the main stem leaving a well balanced tree. This is better than a snipping approach around the perimeter. This lets in light and air, provides an opportunity for the tree to produce new productive branches, and reduces pest and disease opportunities.
If a variety tends to be biennial (cropping every other year) prune in the 'on' year only in the summer before the end of June when the tree is heavily laden with fruit. This will help to promote fruit bud for the next year and increase the size and quality of fruit in the current season.
STONE FRUIT (Plums, Cherries, Gages, etc)
All stone fruit should be pruned as little as possible restricting this only to when the leaves are on the tree and better still after the fruit has been picked. This reduces the risk of bacterial disease. Pruning should be to primarily remove damaged or diseased branches. Remember that too much heavy pruning when the tree is young will only encourage vegetative growth rather than fruit bud.
Further Information On Fruit Pruning