Winter is the best time of year for pruning apple and pear trees. Having a good pair of bypass secateurs (or loppers for larger branches) is important. Poor quality cutting tools will make jagged cuts and bruise the wood, which will allow entry for disease pathogens.
Start by removing dead wood and any crossing branches. The aim is to try and create a ‘wine glass’ shape, with the centre of the tree open. This will allow for maximum air flow and for sunlight to more effectively ripen the fruit.
The blossom and fruit are formed on fruiting buds or ‘spurs’ from the previous season’s growth. Fruit buds are short, stubby growths formed on 2 year wood. Pruning back the current season’s growth by two-thirds or three-quarters will encourage the formation fruit buds and prevent the tree becoming unmanageable; allowing the fruit to form within easy reach.
A few varieties of apple are tip-bearing or partial tip bearing, meaning the fruiting buds are formed at the end of the shoots. Tip-bearing varieties tend to be rather untidy and may become unmanageable. The tip-bearing tendency of some varieties can be reduced by pruning in the summer, as well as in the winter. Cutting back some of the current season’s growth by two-thirds can sometime force the tree to produce fruiting spurs further back, without compromising the quantity of fruit produced.
We would be pleased to offer advice as to the most suitable varieties of apples and pears to grow here in the East Midlands.