Fruit tree pruning Sat 2nd Feb 1.15pm

Orchard 1.13 snow cIt’s time for winter pruning of fruit trees. Our cordons are growing well, but the leader stems are reverting to upright. While they are dormant, we’ll probably need to adjust them by attaching them to the diagonal canes. We’ll see …

Bryn Thomas from Brighton Permaculture Trust is out and about, planting and pruning. There’s a fruit tree planting course happening in Preston Park on Saturday 2nd February.

After that, Bryn’s visiting us at the LRSP garden (by the south side of the railway bridge) at around 1.15pm to show us winter pruning techniques on the mini-orchard we planted with him last March. Find out more on Brighton Permaculture’s site.

Everybody is welcome to come along. I know that at least two neighbours have planted cordon fruit trees since we planted our mini-orchard last year. My neighbour and I had already planted minarette fruit trees (plums and cherries) in our front gardens. It’s wonderful to think we’ll have mini-orchards up and down the Ditchling Rise. This should attract the bees to come and pollinate.

Here’s what the RHS advises on pruning of cordons and minarettes

Winter pruning oblique (45 degree) cordons

  • Neither the leader nor side shoots are normally pruned in the winter, except where the tree has grown a lot since summer pruning or you need to renovate a neglected tree
  • When the cordons reach the top wire they may be lowered from 45 degrees to not less than 35 degrees (as there is less risk of the stem breaking). This will increase the length of stem, and so the amount of fruit produced.  Once the cordon has reached the final length, prune back the leader to 1cm (½in) each May
  • Over-long or complicated spur clusters should be reduced to two or three fruit buds

Summer pruning an oblique cordon (at 45 degrees)

Summer pruning is carried out in August, or in areas where growth is strong, such as wet parts of the country, delay summer pruning until September.

  • Look for sideshoots over 22cm (9in) long, which grew earlier in summer directly from the main stem, and cut them back to three leaves. Those stems that grew from existing sideshoots or spurs can be pruned harder – to just one leaf beyond the cluster of leaves the base of that stem
  • Leave shoots less than 15cm (6in) long until mid September and then shorten to one leaf beyond the cluster of leaves the base
  • Prune growth that forms after summer pruning in September (or October if pruning later)

Encourage the lower buds to break on maidens by shortening the leader by one-third of its height each winter until it reaches the top of the stake


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