Jan, Feb, Dec
Start by removing any dead, damaged or diseased branches. Cut these back to a healthy bud on the stem or remove them altogether, back to the base. Then take out old, unproductive branches, cutting back close to where they join a thicker branch or the trunk. Where established apples and pears have been pruned in this way in previous years, the mass of strong regrowth that follows can be removed or thinned out now, to prevent overcrowding. Prune out additional unwanted growth, to let in light and air.
Reduce the height of the leading shoot and cut back side branches to channel sap into a few buds lower down. This will encourage stronger, thicker main shoots, prevent unnecessary top growth and redirect energy to other growth points. This is the method to follow if you are training your trees as cordons, as this will promote vigorous, pliable shoots that can be bent into place on training wires.
Identify the previous year’s shoots by tracing down from the tips to find the growing point. Shorten these stems to around half their length, cutting just above an outward-facing bud. Remember that once the tree is more mature you’ll want to give it an open structure to maintain good air circulation, so it’s remove any inward-growing branches.
Keeping fruit trees in good shape is the most reliable way to achieve high yields every year.
Look for vigorous shoots towards the ends of all the main branches. Cut these back by between half and two-thirds of their length. Make your cuts just above a bud – if possible one that’s pointing away from the centre of the plant, so the resulting new shoot grows outwards. Check short fruit spurs, identified by their rounded flower buds, and prune out any vigorous shoots that have grown from them. Cut them back to the point from which they grew. On old trees, remove congested fruit spurs, so the flowers and fruits have room to develop without getting damaged.