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On the last weekend of July, we hosted a Summer Fruit Pruning workshop at Coed Hills Forest Garden as part of our 'Fruit Tree Care' series supported by the National Community Lottery Fund in Wales. The workshop was led by grower and educator Stephen Watts, director of Ediculture.

Why prune?

There are four reasons why we prune:

First, for the health of the tree and to remove the "3D's" - dead, diseased and damaged branches.

Second, for the quality of the fruit. Pruning can give fewer, bigger fruits.

Third, for fruit tree structure and accessibility, so that fruits are easier to harvest..

Fourth, for continuous cropping and to balance the amount of wood-leaf growth and flower-fruiting growth each year.

Why prune in the summer?

Some fruit trees can only be pruned in the summer, including stone fruits like cherries and plums as well as peaches, apricots and nectarines. But we can also prune apples and pears to improve fruit quality and prevent biennialism (eg trees fruiting heavily one year and not the following).

Whereas winter pruning for apples and pears is done for structure and health of the fruit tree, summer pruning is done primarily as a way to enhanceharvest. Summer pruning can also help with management of diseases such as canker because you can see more clearly which branches are affected.

Stephen's top tips for summer pruning

  1. Remove dead, diseased and damaged branches. This could include branches that have canker or scab.

  2. Check, clear and clean old wounds. Also check bark and inspect for galls.

  3. Remove branches that are crossing over in the anticipation that they may begin brushng and damaging other branches.

  4. Remove suckers and water shoots.

  5. Remove rotten fruit. This is particularly important for plum tree health.

  6. Reduce the length of any excessively long lateral growth. This can help both promote airflow and promote ripening. Cut back one-third to two-thirds of the last year's growth. You should be able to tell last year's growth by differences in colour.

Photo: Removing rotten fruit and canker to prevent disease transfer

Photo: Stephen removing lateral growth

How to cut

For large cuts

Cut through wrinkled, ringed bark at base of branch (remove weight first) - don’t leave stubs. Leave exposed wood as smooth as possible and cut so it is sloping to allow rain to run off, not collect.

For small cuts:

Cut 2 mm from last bud / parallel to the direction it points to. New growth will follow the direction

of the last remaining bud/ towards space.


We also learned about how to prune apples and pears on espaliers. We looked at some already established four to five year old espaliers and did some work on cutting back and tying up some loose branches. We also looked at how to set up an espalier line, including digging holes, banging in posts, filling in and then setting up wire lines.

With thanks to support from the National Community Lottery Fund in Wales. Watch this space for future workshops on Fruit Tree Care in the Autumn!


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