Winter pruning

Last Sunday (January 19th) we did some winter pruning on our cordoned apple and pear trees. We’re gradually getting the hang of this, and they’ve certainly fruited well these last two years, but they have had spurts of very strong growth and I was worried they would be blown off the wall in high winds.

The principles of winter pruning are fairly straightforward (see below); reality requires a bit of interpretation and approximation as you can see from the video of our efforts.

The wisdom is to prune the leader (the main upwards growing shoot) in the winter when it reaches the top wire. Our problem has been that getting to the top wire requires a ladder and tricky positioning, so I’ve avoided it.

However, with leader stems now coming away from the wire, it was definitely time … Mark and I worked together: never go on a high ladder alone! Balancing loppers, secateurs, pruning sealant as well as yourself is very risky! Our aim was to try to re-shape the six cordons, cutting back the leaders but also unbalanced side growth and forward side growth. So here are the key principles

1. Always prune to a bud – and in the case of our cordons, prune to slightly backward or sidewise facing buds, NOT forward facing ones.

2. Make a clean diagonal cut away from the bud so that moisture doesn’t collect around the bud.

3. Prune out any dead, diseased or damaged (DDD) branches.

4. In winter, prune the leader down to the top wire and tidy any front facing shoots.

5. In summer, prune to reduce growth and ensure air gets to the fruit.

6. Paint over larger pruning cuts with sealant – it’s like a thick glue which covers the ‘wound’ and protects it from nasties – bacteria, insects, fungal infections.

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