Notch A Fruit Tree + Make a New Branch

notchingI hate a glaring gap, an empty space on a fruit tree where a branch should be … needs to be! Here’s a simple, old school trick to stimulate a bit of branching out.

Choose a lovely fat bud in the locale of the wished for branch. Using something sharp take a slice out of the bark, above the bud. Above being important, if a branch is what you are wanting. It’ll put a stop to the flow of life juice, the hormones will gather (not something we usually celebrate) and shoot out a branch for you. Or rather it may shoot out a branch for you. Because we all know that playing with nature has no guarantees. I have (to reassure you) had good success with this, winning more than loosing. The loosing comes from older trees who, it would seem, aren’t interested in branching out, but don’t let this stop you trying.

I have seen a rasp used to rub into the bark (ouch), a hacksaw, a knife – I use my seceteurs. Your slice needs to go halfway round the trunk. For what I hope are obvious reasons, don’t go the whole way.

Best done about a month before buds open, which for apples and pears is right about now.

notch is now branch

And here is the branch that sprang from that notch. See how the notch has healed and the bud – galvanised into action by the gathering of hormones – has become a branch.

Come spring I’ll tie it down and hey presto – a bonafide fruit producing branch fills the gap.

Such a good trick to have up your pruning sleeve.

If cutting into your tree feels scary, dig deep and find your courage. On my notching instruction you can have faith – it works well. Trust me. Try it out.


  1. Hiya,
    Thanks heaps for posting this tip. Good to have your talk on pruning reinforced.

    • Hi David, thats why I posted it – I felt I glossed over it too fast on the 1st. Under the bud stimulates action too but fruiting spurs rather than branches – a big difference! best Kath

  2. Does the cut heal and allow sap flow through that half of the tree again?

  3. Ruth Harrison says

    Hi Kath – would this work on a feijoa?

  4. Saskia Gibbs says

    Can this possibly work on a grapevine?

  5. Nice one Kath….Iโ€™m going to try this on my Montyโ€™s surprise ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Hi Kath
    I want to notch my nectarine: when is the best time to do so?

  7. This is so fantastic. I transplanted about 10 established fruit trees from a subdivided property that was being built on. They were all dug out late summer so I had low expectations. I planted along a fence line in the hopes of espeiliering them. Chopped them right back and they have all survived, by rights none should. I was wondering about “training” branches and this is exactly what I need to know. Delighted to give this a go. Nothing to lose as I wasn’t really expecting them to be alive now ๐Ÿ˜‚

  8. On the main truck of a young nectarine two branches have died. No obvious shoots in the vicinity. Do you reckon to give this a go somehow? Even where the branches died?

    • Its not a great sign the whole dying thing Pip, but go for it I say… nothing to loose and everything to gain. Get some EM or some such over the tree in a semi regular way this growing season – I know for sure you will have a witchy brew on the go ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Can you notch in several places on the tree at the same time? My espaliered pear got out of control when we were away for three years. Can I do two levels or both sides of the tree at once (obviously not going all the way round in one place..) to make it faster or do I need to go back to one level per year?

    • Just take it easy with the notching ok, go for a couple of sites a year. Just by pruning it back you’ll stimulate shoots as well – though these come in more surprising places than nothing brings. A good talking to helps alot ๐Ÿ™‚