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PrunIng Fruit Trees

Date posted: 9 January 2014

The best time of year for pruning fruit trees depends on the type. The most common types are free-standing fruit trees or bush trees – for example those that are grown in an orchard. These should be pruned outside of growth periods, during the winter. Trained or shaped fruit trees, on the other hand – including cordons, espaliers, pyramids, and fans – should be pruned between late August and early September.

What tools will I need to prune fruit trees?

Secateurs are the main tool needed to prune fruit trees, and these need to be kept sharp in order to do the job properly – if you use blunt secateurs you may damage the branches by causing them to tear, creating wounds on the tree that make it vulnerable to disease.
For harder to reach branches and bushes you can hire a long reach tree pruner or for larger branches you will also need a pruning saw. If you don't own these garden tools yourself, both are available at affordable prices from your local tool hire centre.

How should I go about pruning my fruit trees?

If you are pruning a bush tree, that is those with an open arrangement of branches growing from a short trunk, you need to aim to remove any dead, dying or diseased branches. Once you have done this, go on to cut out any branches that are crossing over each other. You can also cut out branches that are growing into the centre of the tree, since these prevent sunlight from reaching it. If your tree has already grown to the desired height, remember to also cut back about two-thirds of the leaders (i.e. the new growth at the tip of every branch). For trees that you would like to grow taller, leave the leaders alone and just cut back lateral branches – leaving around six buds.

If you are pruning a trained (or shaped) fruit tree, there are various techniques used depending on the type of fruit tree and the space it is inhabiting. The easiest type to manage is a cordon, which has a single, supported straight stem studded with short, fruiting spurs. In the first three years after planting, up until the tree starts to bear fruit, try to develop the tree's shape by tying in the main stem (or leader) and shortening any new sideshoots (or laterals) to three leaves beyond their basal cluster of leaves. Also cut back shoots that grow from these pruned laterals to just one leaf.

Once the leader has reached the desired height you can shorten new growth each year in August to two buds. In winter time, cut the spurs out to prevent overcrowding.

If you have apple or pear espaliers and fans these can be pruned in the same way, with each branch regarded as a separate cordon.

If you are pruning neglected fruit trees that have become overgrown, you can inject new life into them over a couple of seasons by cutting out all dead or diseased branches as well as a few of the main branches, allowing in more sunlight. You can also help stimulate new productive growth by shortening others to side branches and thinning overcrowded spurs.

How to hire?

Best at hire is your National tool and equipment hire specialist and we have a whole range of hedge and tree pruning tools available for both short and long term rentals.

Simply Click and Collect from over 70 National Depots or we can Deliver Direct to your Door or workplace.

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