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How to prune deciduous fruit trees

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PeachesPeachesDuring the first 3 years of growth all deciduous fruit trees are shaped in the same way. Correct pruning during the first 3 years will create the basic framework for your tree and from then on, the tree is pruned for fruit production.

If you have just purchased a young tree, cut it down to about 50cm and remove all side growth before planting. During its first years growth allow it to develop shoots freely.

In the second year, select only three branches to retain. These must be equally spaced, but at different heights. Remove all other growth completely.

In the third year select another three branches to keep on each of the branches previously selected and remove all other growth completely. Prune the remaining newly selected shoots back by about 50cm.

Peach trees and nectarines produce fruit on buds from one year old shoots and are usually pruned into an open vase shape. Ensure that the centre of the tree does not become too dense as this will totally block out sunlight, but it should also not be to open or the fruit can become sunburnt. First remove all dead, weak, twiggy and diseased growth.  Always remove branches completely, making the cut flush with the main stem. Now remove some branches that are growing into the centre of the tree and those that cross other branches. Once you have done this look at your tree again and select only the strongest shoots to keep and which will produce fruit next season (one year old shoots), each new shoot should be about 20cm apart.

Apricot and plum trees If your tree has been correctly shape when young only light pruning is necessary, as heavy pruning may result in rampant growth at the expense of fruiting. They bear fruit on spurs which are small shoots on the older wood; so do not prune away the old wood. All you need to do is to shape the tree and remove any diseased or dead branches completely and all basal shoots from the rootstock. Ensure that the centre of the tree does not become too dense as this will totally block out sunlight but it should also not be to open or the fruit can become sunburnt.

Apple, pear and cherry trees that have been well trained from the outset will require only minimal pruning thereafter. Try to keep the centre reasonably open and airy. These trees bear fruit on spurs and the young shoots are pruned back to encourage the formation of more spurs. Firstly remove all scraggly weak looking new shoots and then select a third of those that are left and cut them off completely as well. Of the remaining two thirds, prune one third of the branches back to half their length, leaving the remaining third un-pruned.

Grape vines produce fruit on the new season's growth that arises from year old canes. These canes in turn, come from two year old wood. Canes arising from wood older than two years old are called 'water shoots' and are not fruitful. When pruning, try to keep all fruiting wood at the same level.

Pecan nuts must only be pruned lightly. The ideal shape is a central leader with wide angled branches radiating from it. Remove any weak or diseased branches.

Walnuts need only a light pruning. Remove any weak, dead or diseased growth and any low shoots. Trim back any over-vigorous growth that may cause overcrowding.

Almonds need light pruning to grow upwards and outwards. As the tree develops, remove strong growth from the middle.

Aftercare: After pruning, paint the large cut branches with a tree seal. Ensure that your sprayer has good pressure and spray your deciduous fruit trees and the soil around them, with 1 cup of lime sulphur to 10 cups of water.


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