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Summer Pruning - Deciduous Fruit Trees


Neville Passmore


2 January 2018

When I first started out selling deciduous fruit trees from the family garden centre all pruning was done in winter after leaf fall.  Today, commercial growers do all major pruning in the growing season with just a few shaping cuts in winter.

Why is it so?  Today, we are looking to slow growth and when you cut into a growing stem it does just that, as the tree has less food producing leaves. Winter pruning actually accelerates spring growth. As there is much less room for growing it is necessary to restrict the size of a tree to fit into the growing system. This works well in the home garden too as we no longer have that quarter acre of land around the house.

The first trimming is best done when fruits are formed and a bit over half full size, but have yet to colour up. The idea here is to let more light into the canopy to help fruits to develop and colour better. Cut back leafy stems to a point a few centimetres above the fruit.

Deciduous Fruit Trees Ready For Pruning

 Once the crop has been picked it is time for the second pruning and this is a good deal heavier than the first trim.  The object is to reduce the size of the tree firstly so that fruit can be harvested from the ground rather than from a ladder.  Also it means you can more easily cover the tree with shadecloth to keep birds and fruit fly from attacking the crop.

Fruitless Deciduous Fruit Trees Ready For Pruning

The second objective is to cut back sufficient foliage to check the growth of the tree, in other words, to slow it down.  The third aim is to open out the centre of the tree so it resembles a Martini glass in shape. This allows lots of light into the centre of the tree, which results in more fruit and higher quality. Look to cut back about 50% of the leafy shoots.  

By cutting back your tree in summer there is still sufficient time for regrowth to take place which will provide the fruit bearing shoots for peaches and nectarines, for example, to form in time for fruiting next year. 

Once winter has arrived and all the foliage has dropped its possible to look at your tree and remove any dead shoots and crowding stems that are growing inwards. This won't take long as the heavy lifting has already been done in summer.