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Serious water shoots on our apple & pear trees

Hi - I have just moved to a new home and we have a lovely old apple and pear tree, but they need some serious pruning & I don't want to make any mistakes....

Everything I read says to prune in Winter, but my mother heard that they should be left until Summer.... surely that's not right? Can anyone advise best approach? Also, where should I concentrate my efforts? There's so many shoots! I'd be very grateful for any help!


  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 17,282
    It looks like someone murdered it last winter. The response is what you see. If all of those shoots had been cut back to two buds in August, you would have a lot of fruit this year. As it is, I would wait until August this year and then summer prune it, leaving about a foot of the new growth, so that fruit buds can form for the following year.  If you cut it hard now, it will just do what you see again.
  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 22,344
    edited February 2020
    Er, yes, wot a mess.😁

    The previous owner pruned them in winter but didn’t read the rule book beforehand.😊

    What you have there is a pollarded apple tree. 

    I recommend an out of print book by Harry Baker called Growing Fruit. You can still get it online. I summarise his advice below.

    The theory is that winter pruning stimulates growth, if growth is what you are looking for (not in your case) whereas summer pruning checks it and produces fruit buds from lateral offshoots on the main branches.

    Your renovation task is going to take several years to achieve, doing a little at
    a time.

    This year, before the end of this month, cut back any long whippy branches that cross over the middle of the tree, any that are broken, any that look diseased and any that are really thin and weedy. Don’t rush to clear the tree, only take about thirty percent of them at the most this year.

    Look for upward growing branches that seem healthy, outward pointing and well-shaped and leave those in place. Either mark them with a dab of paint or a bit of string, or just remember which they are. They should eventually form the shape of an upside down umbrella with plenty of potential room between them. I say “potential” because it’s going to take you about three years to remove enough unwanted branches to see those spaces.

    Removing too many in one year will simply reproduce the problem that you already have.

    In August, cut back to about five buds any lateral branches that come off these chosen upward-growing shoots. Again, when you cut back these lateral branches, choose buds that will grow outwards and upwards, away from the centre of the tree.

    With patience, you should be able to renovate the tree in time.

    Good luck.

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • Yes there is an old saying growth follows the knife. You have the exact advice I would give above.
    AB Still learning

  • Amazing! Thank you so much.... so pleased I asked  ;)

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