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Winter Fruit Pruning

Fruit pruning in winter – a quick guide.

Orchards cover countless square miles of our countryside and lines of apple trees all in blossom are a most stunning sight earlier in the year.

Growing your own produce is a wonderful thing to do, but do you know what to prune at this time of year or what to avoid cutting back?

The list is reasonably straight forward. Apple and pears can both be pruned now. The aim of pruning a tree of 4 years old or younger is to create a proper framework of balanced branches. Once the tree has established, the main focus is to encourage fruiting wood. Always remove dead, diseased or crossing branches. With spur-bearing apple varieties (those which bear fruit along the whole shoot like Cox’s Orange Pippin), leave the leading shoots and remove any laterals (side branches) growing towards the centre of the tree. Tip bearers like Worcester Permain which produce fruit mostly at the tip of the shoots should have their leading shoots cut back, leaving the laterals which show signs of fruiting buds. Pears are treated in a similar way to apples, according to their variety. Always cut to an outward facing bud.

There are some trees to avoid pruning at this time of year. Do not cut back plums, cherries, peaches and nectarines. To do so will encourage damaging diseases like Silver Leaf and bacterial canker infection to which they are especially prone at this time of year. Both these diseases can lead to die back in the branches and in the case of canker can result in death.

The list of soft fruit is a little longer but mulberries, quinces, blackberries and blackcurrants can all be cut back now. If in doubt about which shoots to remove, seek advice as to the way in which the shoots are removed will determine how well the plant fruits the following year.

Kent is steadily increasing its reputation for wine growing after the hot summer and for those growing grapes at home, laterals should be cut back to 1 inch from the main branches and the leading shoots by half. With a little time and care, your crop will be something to be proud of.