I don’t mind admitting this was something that really scared me when we bought here. At age 51 I’ve never had a garden that had a fruit tree in it! Whatever small trees we did have I tended to steer away from pruning (until they became a problem at which point Rog would have to sort them!) simply because I was worried about doing it wrong. And now I have 90 fruit trees!
Many, many You Tube videos later here I am, pruning the pear trees with confidence, so I thought I would share a bit of what I’ve learned.
Always clean pruners etc before starting each tree to ensure a disease isn’t spread from one tree to another. The easiest way to do this is to have a small lunchbox with a rag in it soaked in rubbing alcohol – give the blades a quick wipe and air dry for a minute.
Fruit trees need airflow so what you’re looking to do is stop leaves from different branches touching one another basically.
Branches should never cross each other.
Any branches growing into towards the centre of the tree have to go! I’m cutting our pear trees at the moment and aiming for a bowl shape (so no central trunk up the middle of the canopy). Some people do have a central trunk going up, which is fine as long as the other outward facing branches aren’t too close to it.
Each branch should have direct sunlight, so where there is a branch above another one, and cutting out its light, then one of those needs to go. Keep the one that looks healthiest and in the best position out of the two.
Keep the height down by pruning long branches back to an outward facing bud – this encourages the growth away from the middle of the tree. There’s no point having inaccessible fruit 40 ft up in the air – you should’ve seen us trying to harvest the apricot this year – risked life and limb!
Make cuts at 45 degrees to stop water sitting on the cut and damaging the tree. And when cutting off larger branches cut them as close and flush with the main trunk as possible. If the branch you’re cutting is long and heavy, make a cut away from the trunk first, then cut the rest of it off up close to the trunk. This stops stress being put on the main trunk and minimises the risk of tearing the bark.
So how much should generally go – well as a rule of thumb, about 25-30% of the tree should come off. This may seem like a lot, but you’ll get better quality fruit and a healthier tree.
Having just watched a video about pruning almonds though, it looks like with these you only keep about 30% of the tree! Looking forward to doing those!
Always happy to hear and share any other hints or tips any of you have!
One of my favourite channels on You Tube is called The Gardening Channel with James Prigioni – he’s young and enthusiastic and really explains things clearly. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll have a You Tube channel of our own!