How to Summer Prune Plums and Peaches

vase shape plumDescribing pruning is a dastardly affair. I hope I have pared this description back to it’s bones and made it helpful rather than confusing (pruning can so easily end up confusing!)

A few important points

  • Plums and peaches are ready to prune when they finish fruiting.
  • The shape I’m describing here is called a vase shape with an open middle to let light in. I favour a small tree, with a maximum 3m spread. Small trees can still bear loads of fruit – as long as there is plenty of light.
  • Use clean sharp tools for a smooth finish. Always cut back to a bud, to a union with another branch or shoot, or to the trunk.
  • Every variety grows differently, so use this as a guide in tandem with commonsense/ intuition and your observations

Making a strong frame

The first job is to prune the 4- 6 branches (the amount will depend on the vigour of your tree) that make your frame up . Choose ones coming off the trunk at about hip height and well spaced around the trunk. Remove other branches.

Shorten longer branches back to similar lengths as shorter ones to create a strong balanced shape.

Old, weak or broken branches need to be removed.  If a replacement is available then train it into into the space or  wait for a well placed growth next season.

Remove all growth in the shade under the main branches.

Remove all growth heading to the middle and growing in the middle. Fruit grows where the light is, if the middle is cluttered all the fruit will grow around the outside. By letting light right into the centre you’ll get fruit all the way along the branches.

Vigorous stonefruit grow secondary branches off the original ones. They can stay, but only if they are (you know it) bathed in light, and not blocking light to anywhere else.

Making fruit

Laterals are the fruiting shoots that grow along the branches. Create a 20cm space between each lateral by completely cutting off laterals that cramp the space.

Shorten any laterals that are longer than 20cm. This measure is here because you need  something tangible to get you started. Please accept it as just that (no need for your tape measure).

If your tree has put on loads of upright growth then you need to get rid of it in a way that wont send the tree into a frenzy whereby you have three times more of the stuff next year (and not much fruit to boot). It’s better to remove some (preferably the most vigorous) and reduce the rest. If you had a gun to my head and said “stop waffling and define it for me”, I’d say “Completely remove every third upright growth and reduce the others back to a couple of buds. With any luck they develop into fruiting spurs.” Occasionally these over zealous growths are useful to fill a gap. Tie the growth down so it fills the space, and cut it back to balance with the rest of the tree.

Assess your beautiful prune

Take three steps back, and slowly walk all the way round the tree to check it’s a balanced shape and light shines forth into every nook and cranny.

Chop up the prunings and lay them beneath the tree. Job tidy.