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Pruning Fruit Trees

bigalxyzbigalxyz Posts: 12
edited January 2019 in Fruit & veg
Hello forum.

I have a number of fruit trees in my garden, all planted 4 years ago:

Apples (4 espalier trained)
Cherry (1 fan)
Peach (1 fan, 1 bush)
Nectarine (1 fan)
Apricot (1 fan)
Plum (1 fan)
Fig (2 free standing trees)

They're doing ok (apart from grey squirrels stealing some of my crops) but my pruning is haphazard. I don't really know what I'm doing, and I worry I might make mistakes. I've done some research online, but I'm finding it all very confusing. Can anyone suggest any online links or even books I could buy which might help please? I'm hoping to put a schedule together so that I know which trees to prune, when, and how.

Also as well as the which, when and how, I'm interested in "why". Why are apples different (tip and spur, etc.), which trees fruit on new wood, old wood, etc. - this is a mystery to me. I'm hoping that if I can gain an understanding of that, the pruning "regime" I need would become fairly obvious.

FWIW I'm in central London (if that has any effect on timings, length of seasons, etc.).

Many thanks,


  • bigalxyzbigalxyz Posts: 12
    edited January 2019
  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 21,914
    I am going to recommend a small paperback book which is possibly out of print but easily available online second hand.

    It is called Growing Fruit and it is by Harry Baker, published by the RHS.

    Here is a typical page

    Sorry, upside down but you get the idea.

    Small and portable, you can take it into the garden with you. Clear illustrations and instructions. It covers all types of fruit. Growing, feeding, pruning, etc etc. 
    A wonderful book.

    As to why spur bearers and why tip bearers, the answer must go back into the mists of time when some wild apple trees went off and did their own thing, were then cultivated and carried on their own particular system of fruiting.  Why do some people have twins in the family? Who knows.
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • Ooooh many thanks. Much appreciated. Have done a quick search online and there's an old copy of this on eBay for a couple of quid, so I think I'll treat myself!
  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Posts: 8,027
    I'd second Pansyface's suggested book.  It taught me how to prune peaches when I worked as a gardener, so successfully that the tree's owner didn't know what to do with all the fruit...   :D
    Since 2019 I've lived in east Clare, in the west of Ireland.
  • treehugger80treehugger80 Posts: 1,923
    edited January 2019
    so basics:
    non stoned fruits (apples/pears) are pruned generally twice a year, once in winter (Nov to Feb) for growth and the shape of tree (generally removing the three D's- dead/damaged/diseased) and again in July/August for fruit the following year, that is, cutting back that years growth to 4 or 5 leaves- thus causing side shoots or spurs to form which hold flowers and fruits the following year.
    stone fruits (plums/apricots/cherries etc) are pruned only in leaf and usually in late spring around flowering time, this stops a fungal infection called silver leaf which can kill the trees. pruning consists of removing the three D's and reducing last years growth (which has no flowers or fruit) to 5 leaves so that it produces side shoots for fruit in a couple of years,
    stone fruit pruning tends to be less 'harsh' that non stone fruits.
    i don't have any experience with Figs so you'd have to do some research.
  • The Gardeners world website & magazine has lots of pruning advice & sometimes they run pruning master classes. 
    AB Still learning

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