Before you tackle pruning your fruit trees, ensure you know why you are pruning and that you have the right tools for the job.
Not all fruiting plants require an annual prune, and some new dwarf cultivars of apples, peaches, apricots and nectarines have been bred to eliminate the need for annual pruning and maintenance.
- To reduce the size of the tree, to allow for easier picking and harvest.
- To increase the yield - pruning encourages fresh new stems, and therefore an increased harvest.
- To allow more sunlight and air movement into the plant: a small bird should be able to fly through the centre of the tree. Improved air movement prevents pest and disease problems developing and more light encourages even ripening.
- To remove dead and diseased branches and stems.
- For a desired shape.
When to prune:
- Apples and pears - prune every winter to ensure a good crop of fruit the following season. Note that sometimes due to seasonal fluctuations, pears become biennial fruiters, fruiting better every second season.
- Feijoas, olives, figs, Chilean guavas and citrus - prune after harvest finishes. In cold areas, don’t prune citrus until after the frosts have passed. It is not necessary to prune every year.
- Nectarines, peaches, almonds and plums - prune in summer or autumn. These fruits don’t need pruning every season, and it’s important not to prune in winter as it can spread the spores of silver leaf, which is these stone fruits are prone to.
- Grapes and kiwifruit - prune in winter, back to 3-5 buds and tie back any long new branches or canes to train into shape.
- Cherries and blueberries - do not require a lot of pruning, other than to shape and to remove dead or diseased wood. Both fruit on the same wood for years. The best time to prune is after fruit appears in summer or autumn.
How to prune:
- Prune on a dry day, to limit the spread of fungal spores and diseases.
- Use sharp secateurs to make clean cuts on an angle, above a bud or branch.
- Prune lightly rather than excessively.
- Remove all clippings and prunings and dispose of dead and diseased material.
- Clean tools after use.
- Spray deciduous fruit trees in winter with a copper based spray to eradicate over wintering diseases. Spores can over-winter and are spread by air and moisture, as well as tools.