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Emilie Griffin prunes apple and pear trees in anticipation of a good crop next year

When pruning apple and pear trees, you need to make sure they are dormant – from December to late February, between leaf fall and bud break.

The way you prune your fruit tree depends on whether it is tip- or spur-bearing. And to determine this you will need to know how it has fruited in previous years.

Tip-bearing trees tend to fruit on the tips of branches. However you can get a partial tip-bearer that fruits both on the tips and the spurs.

Spur-bearing trees produce small stubby sideshoots along the branches.

Step 1

Using a sharp pair of secateurs (or loppers depending on the size of the branch) remove any crossing, weak, damaged and dying branches

Step 2

The centre of the tree needs to be kept open to ensure you have a strong, healthy and productive tree. Remove any old, large, previously fruited branches from the centre

Step 3

Reduce the length of tall, vigorous branches by one third. Cut them back to a healthy outward-facing bud, which won’t cross with other branches during future growth

Step 4 for spur-bearing trees

Prune fruited laterals (sideshoots) to one or two buds from the main stem to encourage more fruiting sideshoots to form

Step 4 for tip-bearing trees

Cut back the older fruited sideshoots to the main stem or one to two buds from the main stem if the buds are strong and healthy to encourage new growth

Quick tip

Previously fruited shoots will look as though they have a callus (repaired wound) at the tip

  • rebekah

    this is the first year i have had my fruit trees. my mother in law bought me a plum, apple, cherry and pear patio tree for christmas 2010 from the internet (one of those mini orchard deals you see)

    my trees are growing in pots. but as i have not seen my trees in leaf and blossom, leave alone seen them fruit yet should i leave them a year to see what they do or can i prune them now? how do i know how to prun them if i have never seen them fruit?

    thanks