How to Summer Prune and Thin Apples and Pears

We've looked at winter pruning before and the summer pruning of cherries but today is all about keeping the pear and apple cordons in check. Winter pruning stimulates growth in spring and is great for apples and pears as it means they put on plenty of growth in spring, which means more fruit and also means you can cut out diseased limbs. Summer pruning restricts shape and can also be used to tackle diseases, such as, apple canker, which there is no cure for beyond pruning out infected branches. Cordons are planted at a 45 degree angle normally against a wall or boundary, they save space but will only do so if you prune back at this time of year to stimulate fruiting spurs (where the fruit is produced) for next year.

Fruit tree

Pruning back any horizontal branches also allows the apples to breath and get daylight. Just make sure that your secateurs are sharp.

Apple cordon

It's also a good time of year to check ties. We use soft string which is good for around two years before it rots. In the photo below you can see all ties are done in a figure of eight so it loops around the cane and tree but leaves the middle of the eight as a buffer to prevent the tree rubbing against the wires in wind. Never tie with plastic string or wire. You will ring bark your tree, the removal of bark, and kill it.

Plant ties

Pruning new horizontal branches means that you prune back to two buds, or two sets of leaves, branches that come off these in the second year can be pruned back to one bud, these will create fruiting spurs. Yes, you have to be patient. Just remember 2:1 and you will get there. We spoke before about apple canker, this is it below.

Apple canker

The horizontal branch here has died because that's what plants do when they are attack, they close off sections like a flooding submarine so that the rest of the plant can survive. So, cut this out and do not compost the branch.

Apple canker

A quick prune back of all the horizontals reveals the crop hidden beneath. 

cordon apples

Standard forms, your normal fruit tree (lollipop shape) doesn't tend to need pruning in summer beyond making sure that there are no crossing branches and the tree is open to air flow. The tree below is Keswick Codling and is chock full of apples. However, you will notice very small apples among the other clusters and you should pinch these out. You are aiming for two apples at each spur, three apples will inevitably mean small apples. Remove any rotten fruit.



Thinning out the apples allows for air flow and for the remaining apples to swell. This part of our fruit production is now in its sixth year and we have plans to rejig the orchard and move all the trees from the right by the hedge to the left by the fence. They are being out competed by the hedge and the hedge is creating a micro-climate for disease. This we will do in winter when the trees are dormant.


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