Pruning the mini-orchard

Bryn pruning day 1 cBryn Thomas visited the garden to demonstrate winter pruning to LRSP members and the  group taking the Brighton Permaculture fruit growing course.

Our six cordoned trees – four apples, two pears – have been pruned and the position of the leader shoots has been adjusted.


side pruningThe stronger the leader growth, the more angled it can be: the angle slows down the growth.

Our trees are growing particularly vigorously, so no need to feed them – any nitrogen-based fertilisers to be avoided. What is important is watering.

The laterals have also been pruned – always to an outside or downward facing bud with an angled cut – to ensure a good shape for the trees’ second season.

Our plum tree, however, has not been pruned. This takes place from mid-May, to avoid bacterial infection.

Bryn pruning day offering secateurs Bryn pruning day 2 c on beds








pruned trees cThe orchard looked shorn and bare when pruning had finished. This winter pruning will, however, stimulate growth – and it looks like we may get a few pears this summer.It was cold in the garden, but there is a sense that the new season is just around the corner.

Ready for their new spurt of growth, I cut back last year’s shoots of our autumn fruiting raspberries right to the base. The autumn fruit is carried on the new green shoots which are already sprouting through the soil.

We also need to prune a red currant and a black currant, both in large containers.

With black currants, the aim is to remove between a quarter and a third of the oldest wood by cutting back to a strong shoot at the base. The young shoots carry the fruit for the next season. Here’s a lovely video of Markus from the Swiss horticultural grower, Lubera, explaining how to do it. Cut out the older – thicker, darker – stems, and leave the young ones. Cut out also the branches b

The same principle applies to red currants. The aim is to create ‘a goblet-shaped’ bush with an open centre. This improves air circulation, which reduces the risk of pests and diseases. The main idea is to cut out old shoots crowding the centre. As Markus says, ‘when we took away [the long branches], we always let a bit of the stem’ from which the new wood will grow. Then the remaining leader shoots can be cut back by half.

Monty Don also presents red currant pruning, with useful commentary on cutting out canker. He says not to prune black currants in the winter, but immediately after fruit in late summer and early autumn. The RHS book Growing Fruit, however, says ‘Prune in early autumn or at any time in the dormant season until March’. Hmm … Another gardening conundrum.


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