Last week, whilst the boy took a long nap I managed to get down into the orchard to prune some of my trees. They're really putting on some growth now so it's important that they grow how I want them to, to make fruit ripen and to make picking easy!
The first job before tackling any tree to look for diseased or damaged wood and remove it. Even if the branch is int he right place if it has canker then it's not going to grow strong.
I was pleasantly surprised that there wasn't much canker and I only had to cut out a couple of branches with it. Unfortunately this did make one tree really lob sided but another branch will grow to fill the void in time.
I then set about each tree in turn, standing back and taking a look at it from all sides. I want my trees to be goblet shaped, clear of branches in the middle with branches not any higher than my head. I try not too take too many branches off in one year, no more than a quarter, I tend to remove the middle upright ones first and then look again at the tree, picking branches to form a frame work.
Quite often I'll leave branches on that I can see have lots of fruit buds on, to remove a following year, I want a good frame work but I also want some fruit! You'll soon develop a keen eye for spotting the difference between fruit buds and leaf buds, it also pays to be careful as you remove branches not to knock fruit buds off from elsewhere on the tree. Remember you're shaping the tree but it still needs to be productive.When pruning trees it's important to remember that not everything has to be done that year, if you take too much off you'll encourage the tree to put on lots of woody growth at the expense of your fruit. Pruning fruit trees is an on going project that takes years, there's no rush!
I've included a few before and after pictures of trees that I did and these are by no means perfect, but they are starting to form the frame work I want. Some of the lower branches on the first tree are being left as a temporary measure to give me more fruit now and gradually I'll lift the canopy to the height I want as branches form in the right place, the second tree has the goblet shape formed now but still too much upright growth that needs to be removed in coming years.
I know that fruit tree pruning is a daunting prospect for some so I hope this post helps, remember that you're better to have a go than not and trees soon grow branches again!
Who else has been pruning fruit trees this winter?