Summers ending and my attention has been focused on taming the fruit trees including apples, pears, plums and cherries that grow within one of our many poly tunnels. Growing fruit trees in this environment presents different challenges to those faced by growing in the traditional outdoors. It is essential that their growth is managed, as the garden had been largely un-worked for a number of years, the tunnel was almost inaccessible with rampant growth desperate to escape.
Summer pruning helps to keep fruit trees a relative size to their environment whilst winter pruning encourages growth. It will take a number of year’s careful pruning to get things back on track in our fruit tree tunnel
Once apple and pear trees are established it’s best to summer prune the spur-fruiting varieties to improve the current year’s crop and to maximise next year’s harvest. Most apple and pear trees are spur fruiting but some are tip bearers and those are not suitable for this type of pruning. If in doubt check your variety of tree.
The RHS website https://www.rhs.org.uk/ is a good source of information
Summer pruning will encourage the development of short flowering shoots or ‘spurs’ that go on to produce fruit. This is especially important where you might be growing restricted forms of fruit trees such as cordons, espaliers or fans. It will also remove a good amount of the leafy growth allowing more sun onto the current ripening crop.
Keep trees in shape by cutting the soft, current seasons growth before it has a chance to become woody.
How to guide:
Cut back the leading shoots of each branch by about half their length to encourage the production of the side shoots.
Only prune the current season’s growth in this way, cutting to just above a leaf. Always cut with a sloping cut angled away from the bud or leaf axial.
Cut back all remaining side shoots to two or three leaves from the base of the current season’s leafy growth (basal cluster), cutting just above the bud.
It’s always best to prune to an outward facing bud to keep the centre of the tree open allowing air to circulate reducing any pest and disease problems.