When to prune plants

There are thousands of different plants that require different pruning methods but without going into each specific plant and their pruning requirements here is a few of the most common pruning techniques. As a general rule prune plants that start flowering in early Spring  in late Summer early Autumn and plants that flower In Summer and Autumn in early Spring or after the last frost. Deciduous fruit trees and roses can be pruned late Winter. Prune grasses back in early Spring just above ground level.  Avoid pruning plants in late Autumn as pruning encourages new growth which can be damaged by the cold over Winter. Most plants need spent flowers removed to encourage more flowers to grow. Some fruiting trees get fruit on current years wood and some get fruit on previous years wood so you need to know which wood your tree gets fruit on before pruning. There are exceptions to these rules so always get a professional horticulturalists advice when you are unsure.

When and how to prune fruit trees

The first thing you need to know is the difference between buds that produce leaves and the buds that produce fruit. In winter the fruit buds are plump, round and the scales are particularly downy on apples, cherries,plums and pears. Spur bearers produce fruit on two year old wood and tip bearers on the previous years wood. Most fruit trees are spur bearers which grow closer to the trunk of the tree and produce fruit for several years. Peaches and Nectarine’s produce fruit on laterals produced the previous summer, which only produce for one season so there must be new growth retained to get fruit the following season.Trees that are tip bearers need to be pruned much less vigorously. Leaf buds are much smaller, slender and borne on leaf axils. Pruning is done to regulate growth, allow air and light to enter the framework and encourage flowers and fruit. Most are pruned to a vase shape but some can be trained as espalier. In the first few years the aim of pruning is just to establish a good strong framework for your tree so that the shape is good and picking is easy. Later, the main reasons for pruning is to remove dead or diseased wood, thin overcrowding growth and removing inward growing branches while maintaining the vase shape.

Most fruit trees should be pruned in winter but it is better to prune apricots in Autumn as the wounds heal quicker making them less susceptible to disease attack. Always make the cut on an angle so that water will run off when it rains. Before starting make sure all of your pruning equipment is sharp and clean.First remove all shoots that are growing from the base of the tree up to the first branch of the main canopy. Remove all dead or damaged branches that are flaky or discolored. Also remove any branches growing directly upwards these are generally water shoots, poor fruit bearers and crowed and shade the rest of the tree. Cut off any crossing over branches or branches that grow inwards to encourage a vase shape. Cut back the rest of the branches about one third to an outward facing bud to encourage thick branches and maintain the vase shape. Remember to spray trees with lime after pruning to protect trees from disease such as leaf curl.

The diagram below shows,

1 How to prune in the first year

2 The trees growth in it’s second year

3 After it’s prune in the second year

4 its growth in the third year

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