Back to Basics: Fruit Tree Pruning Videos

Here are a couple of videos that I hope will give beginners a bit of pruning confidence. Thanks to my buddy Ray at Soulhaven Productions for making them and thanks to Barry for letting us film his trees!

These fruit tree pruning videos won’t answer all your questions, not by a long shot. But they will, I hope, encourage you to trust yourself and have a go. Every year you’ll be a little bit wiser. You got this, my friends.

Step One: The Shape

Start by taking a good look at your trees and noticing their natural shape. For more detail about vase and single leader shapes check this post out.

Step Two: The Framework

Begin with the framework – loppers and saw in hand. It’s amazing the difference removing one whole branch makes – often times this is all that’s needed.

stand back for perspective while pruning fruit trees ediblebackyard nz (3)

If your fruit trees are big wild crazy things, don’t prune them back to a classic shape all in one go. The harder you prune this year, the harder they’ll shoot next year. Keep growth steady by only removing about a third of the canopy. Stack the prunings beside you as you go for a clear visual of this.

Pick one branch to remove. Choose the big branch that’s cluttering up the middle or the tallest branch and remove it right back at the trunk. Stand back and decide whether or not to go for another. Something is better than nothing. And less is better that more πŸ™‚

If your trees are newbies, here’s how to prune new fruit trees.

Step Three: The Branches

Finish with the branches. Go methodically along each one

  • removing clutter to let in light
  • shortening overly long laterals
  • thinning out wood that’s gotten too big for renewal shoots
  • and head the end back to where you want it.

Remember to admire all the fruit buds as you go. They’ve grown just for you.

Comments

  1. Hi Kath, thanks so much for posting these timely videos…I’ve been eyeing my new-ish apple tree and waiting earnestly for all its leaves to drop: while waiting, I’ve been looking for a great pair of quality secateurs – there’s so much variety out there and prices vary wildly…Do you have any recommendations? I’m over big-box store ones that go blunt and don’t last, I’d like to spend a bit (but not crazy dollars) and buy some good ones. Nga mihi nui!

    • My fav seceteurs aren’t even a million bucks – about $40, and come without packaging! Yay all round. Bahco bypass seceteur 190mm. As long as your hands are mobile and have no issues these guys are fab. Buy yourself a sharpener too because no matter how good your tools they will get blunt. I keep my little diamond sharpener in my pouch and tickle up the blade between trees. Both available from Farmlands. Happy pruning Kath

  2. Michelle Scofield says

    Many thanks for the information you’ve provided in your videos. I really like the systemic approach you use in working out what to prune. It will help me a lot!

  3. Anne Sapphire says

    Thanks for this Kath. I have your Pruning book, but the video was even more helpful. You talked about netting your trees. Last season I lost most of my apples to birds and possums. What is the best way to go about netting such large trees?

    Also, as a housewarming gift I had booked my daughter and myself into your ?April course, which was subsequently cancelled due to Covid 19. When are you looking at having another course. My daughter is started a garden completely from scratch, although I have introduced her to your blogs.

  4. Awesome videos, thanks Kath.

  5. Excellent videos Kath.
    I bought your book but these helped to reassure me.
    We’ve just bought a property in Otaki with old fruit trees that haven’t been pruned for years so may take a few years to get into shape.
    Nervous that once I start pruning I wont be able to stop and will take off too much.!

    • I hear ya! Every time you prune something pull the branch out and stack it on a pile. Stand back and reassess. Every branch out makes an enormous difference. This pause will cool your pruning fever down slow things and bring a much better prune!

  6. Genevieve says

    Thanks, Kath. I’ve been a bit terrified to prune our trees and now they are overgrown! I will try my best. We are on a quarter acre and grow much of our own food. Your videos are very helpful. Thank you

    • It is scary Genevieve – just remember trees want to grow! You wont kill them πŸ™‚ Take your time and if you’re not sure come back another day. Even one or two main branches out is going to make a huge difference. Enjoy!

  7. Hi Kath, I have just moved to a property with two mammoth fig trees that had so much fruit over summer that we just could not reach….and didn’t seem to ripen. I do not think they have been pruned for many, many years. Now that the leaves have dropped it is easy to see the labyrinth of branches. Evidently they need to be pruned to be a size that is manageable but i notice you mention the need to be cautious about heavy pruning. How cautious should I be? Also do I need to wait until the end of winter to do this? Also any tips about pruning an almond tree? Thanks

    • Big question there Anne! You can chop a fig down and begin again. As for the Almond prune as per a peach. My book will give you all the details πŸ™‚

  8. Jane Bennett says

    Thank you!! So I guess now is the time to get into this job. My trees are one and two seasons in the ground.
    Question: have you tried sticking the prunings into the ground and growing babies?

  9. Lesley McGregor says

    Hi Kath
    Were these the loppers that you recommended at your fruit tree pruning workshop?
    https://www.timbersaws.co.nz/product/276-timbersaws-prun-off-lopper
    Cheers

  10. Maria Penny says

    Hi Kath,
    Can you show us how to sharpen with your diamond stone and where to purchase the stone?

    • I got the stone at Farmlands Maria. All you do is swipe it along the bevelled edge from the body to the end in the same direction a couple of times, never back and forth. easy as that!

  11. Heather Ryan says

    Hi Kath, Thank you for these very informative Fruit tree videos….they were very much appreciated…so much so I’ve just ordered your book on-line. I hope you receive the order.

  12. Hi Kath,,

    I was wondering if you have a place you would recommend to buy fruit tees from please?

  13. Good Morning Kath,

    Thankyou for the great looking book which I’ve purchased this morning. I just had a quick question…
    Last year I moved to a property with a very old apricot tree – about 40-50 years we think. It’s massive, but has been left to grow very tall. I’ve got a fruit picker basket for the taller stuff, but at its tallest it must be 30 feet tall to the top of the foliage. Would mid winter be the best time to prune it down, and would I just follow the one third per season rule, or is there a different rule to follow with stonefruit? There are around 21 we’ll established fruit trees on about 600sqm of land, so I’ve definitely got my work cut out for me this season… Also, is there an easy way to encourage growth outwards for quite old branches (30 years with little/no pruning), or are all answers within the tome? 😊

    • Hey there Gordon – fun project! And yes there is a guide to restoring older trees in the book so just follow that. Apricots dont take kindly to hard pruning as a whole so be gentle! Sad to say no way to get that old wood to retrain … you know how it is πŸ™‚ Better to remove the badly placed scaffolds over time and retrain the new shoots as they come. Think of it as an ongoing thing – reshaping old trees is no one off hit thats for sure. Not to mention you cant guarantee how they’ll respond so its about doing a bit, then noticing the responses the next season and basing your next prune on those observations… ie getting to know your trees. How lucky to have an established abundant Apricot!

  14. Mandy ONeill says

    Hi Kath, I have bought a “belle de jeume” pear tree and want to keep it quite small.
    I have seen recommendations to chop the main stem off at knee height to achieve this
    Would appreciate your thoughts on this
    Thank you
    Mandy O’Neill

    • Such a sweet little pear! Am presuming its on a quince rootstock? The rootstock determines how hard you can prune it. Also are you growing it as a standard or an espalier?
      The first cut you make is where the first set of branches will spring from. Knee height sounds awful to me – bending over to pick and prune and weighty fruit ending up in the grass… but it really depends on your set up.
      I prefer hip height for the first set of branches.
      Unless you are setting up espalier in which case the first cut needs to be just below the first wire.
      Hope this helps Kath

  15. Hey Kath,
    Love all your resources, the book is so good. Thanks! I have a question about an apple tree at our new home, it had two suckers that had grown quite big from out of the ground/base of the tree, I’ve removed them but not sure if this counts towards the 1/4 of the tree to be pruned this year, or should this not be counted? I’d love to prune more as it needs it, but will wait if best to do so.
    Thanks in advance!

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