Last week I started the process of pruning our apples. We’ve got two established trees, which have been pruned on a fairly regular basis since we inherited the plot. The Beauty of Bath (a fabulous early variety with slightly pink flesh) has always responded well to a prune, but the other tree (an unknown hybridised variety) has generally been the ‘poor cousin’ and if I’m honest has been neglected over the years. So this year I’ve started with this tree; fuelled, if I’m truthful, by the fact that this year (for once) we had a decent crop of lovely sharp and refreshing fruit from it.
I’ve always been a bit hesitant about how and what when it comes to pruning, but found a six point guide to general winter pruning in a Garden Organic publication and have used it this year.
- Prune out any dead, diseased or damaged wood back to a healthy bud or stem
- Continue to keep the centre of the bush uncluttered – prune out any weak-growing, very upright or crossing shoots and branches
- If some of the lead branches are weak growing they can be lightly trimmed back to stimulate more growth
Remove any worn out and unproductive wood (generally more than three years old) by cutting back to a suitable replacement shoot
- Remove any congested or overcrowded laterals or shorten to four to six buds to encourage fruiting spurs to develop. Retain about a third of the newly-formed laterals
- If fruiting spurs become overcrowded, thin them out leaving one or two fruit buds per cluster
It’s a relatively simple process and rather satisfying once complete. Given the wind and rain of the last week or so, I’ve had to leave the second apple tree (and the other fruit trees on the plot) until I can get up the tree without being blown out! Mind you, nature has done a bit of the pruning of dead and weak branches for me.