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Pruning fruit trees

05-Jun-2013 | Contributed by: Guest Author

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Orchard trees

To get the optimal growth, fruit harvest and aesthetic appearance from your favourite trees it is vital you conduct regular pruning. And remember – some fruit trees can grow very quickly! Always prune the fruit tree when you plant it, If pruning was not done at the nursery or other location from where you sourced the fruit tree - it is advisable to prune it when planted.

Pruning and Training

Pruning is critical to the long term success and growth of your fruit tress. 

Pruning encourages:

  • regular, quality crops of fruit 
  • successful regrowth of diseased tree parts
  • opening the tree up to increased light 
  • height management

To support (often) heavy fruit crops, developing the tree shape and framework through pruning during the early stages of tree development is critical. 

But remember to use careful and exact technique or poorly executed cutting can lead to disease and pest infestations in injured trees.

Pruning requires sharp secateurs and is conducted during winter when the tree is dormant. If cuts are large, they require painting with a sealing compound which protects against disease. Cuts should be made just above each growth bud, with cuts made through healthy tissue just below the section that is diseased.

Fruit Tree Shapes

To encourage fruit production, trees are cut in a a variety of shapes while they are dormant. The following 3 shapes are typically used in pruning and training of fruit trees.

Pruning Tree Shapes (left to right): Central Leader, Vase, Espalier (horizontal).

Central Leader

This popular, modern shape has a central leader with tiered, fruiting branches. The central leader produces fruit early in the tree's life, is easy to train and requires minimal pruning.


This traditional system has an open centre  with 4-5 leaders growing it. This shape is typically used on peach, nectarine and plum trees.


This less popular shape (although regaining popularity) can be decorative is suited to small gardens. The tree is trained on wires or fences - for apples and pears (horizontal), or for stonefruit (fan shape).

So get out with your saw or trimmer today! Give your trees the care and attention they deserve with minimal yet regular pruning now will provide bountiful, fruit, shade and pleasure for many years to come. 

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