Fruit Trees – Pruning

Pruning is arguably the most scary of tasks to take on. Remember, fear is the unknown and when you have the knowledge, there is no longer a need to worry!

What is pruning?

Pruning is the selection of shoot or branch growth to achieve structure and to maintain growth and fruit production. In other words, it shapes your bush or tree, and makes sure that the best possible conditions for growth and fruit production are maintained.

Formative pruning

This is the process of establishing a frame work of branches or shoots that will support the crop for years to come. Here the selection of shoots and branches are made so that good angles are maintained and open structure to the tree or bush is achieved. This will ensure good plant health through the selection of strong and healthy growth, and the free movement of air and the admission of light into the tree or bush that will maintain optimum cropping and growth. This is achieved by the following means:

  • Ÿ  The removal of narrow angled and competitive shoots.
  • Ÿ  The removal of in-growing or crossing growth.
  • Ÿ  The removal of unproductive growth.

Maintenance pruning

This ensures that a continual supply of new growth is maintained in order to:

  • Maintain vigor and development.
  • Maintain an open light and airy structure that will improve health, and fruit production.

Always remember to remove no more than 25% of living growth in each year. This is achieved through the following priorities; diseased growth; broken or split; crossing or rubbing growth.

Restoration pruning.

This is intended to bring old or unproductive trees and bushes back into growth and bearing. Action can shock it, so remember the 25% rule and take out no more than 25% of the living growth in any year. Take care here! Like us, the older a tree or bush becomes, the less tolerant it becomes.

ŸRestoration pruning will take the form of cutting back branches to encourage new growth. From then on maintenance and formative pruning take over. Unlike us, giving them a haircut can make them young again!

Summer pruning

ŸThis reduces the vigor of a tree, and is used on cordons and espaliers. Normally done around July, the new growth is cut back to around 4-5 buds, and has the effect of increasing fruit spur production.

ŸPrune stoned fruit after harvesting, and never during the dormant winter months. This will help reduce the risk of disease such as silver leaf from entering the wound, as healing with be quicker.

Winter pruning

ŸThis increases the tree’s vigour by the removal of unwanted growth. Not recommended for stone fruit.


ŸBe bold and be confident!  You may make a tree or bush look a little ugly for a while, but it is unlikely that you will kill it. Any mistakes can be rectified over the following years. You will see the results of your pruning action the following year, and this will increase your confidence, which will also grow with your trees and bushes.