Apples and orchards - pruning tips for your trees

PUBLISHED: 14:50 11 November 2013 | UPDATED: 14:50 11 November 2013

So delicious you could almost pluck them off the page

So delicious you could almost pluck them off the page

Archant

It’s no secret that Naomi Slade is a little bit in love with fruit trees, and apple trees in particular, so at this time of year is to be found poking around orchards, trying the treats

It is said that when it comes to pruning, gardeners fall into two camps. The first will snip off a couple of twigs, decide that that will probably do as it would be a shame to knock the tree back, and retire for a cup of tea. The other, it is alleged, grabs secateurs in one hand, saw in the other, and, pruning knife between the teeth, cartwheels towards the hapless victim like some sort of botanical samurai. I exaggerate only a little.

Pruning will benefit productive trees. Careful cutting back stimulates new growth, creating a continual supply of two-year-old wood, which is where you will get the fruit. It also lets light and air into the centre of the tree, which helps with ripening and reduces the chances of fungal diseases such as scab and canker.

But one of the nice things about old apple trees is that, because they are not terribly long-lived by tree standards, they get gnarly fairly fast which provides lots of lovely habitat for wildlife – indeed there is an argument for not bothering to prune very old trees at all as by this point they will have sorted themselves out and will just modestly crop without intervention.

If you want to prune apple or pear trees, once the fruit is picked and the leaves have fallen, remove any dead or diseased wood and branches that are rubbing or crossing, using sharp secateurs. Next, stand back and look at the shape of your tree and thin or remove the branches that are facing inwards, to open up the centre.

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To plant your own, good sources of trees include Bernwode Fruit Trees www.bernwodeplants.co.uk and Buckingham Nurseries www.buckinghamnurseries.co.uk both of whom are based in Buckinghamshire, and you can order online from www.ashridgetrees.co.uk or www.otterfarmshop.co.uk. Now, about that cup of tea...

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