Get Ready To Prune

There’s no doubt about it – I’m a look ahead kind of girl. I love a plan and a pre anything ponder. And this is what I’m advocating for today – a wander through your fruit trees for (you guessed it), a pre prune ponder.

Free The Ties

tie a branch down

As you wander remove any ties.

  • If you tied down branches last spring, you need to take the ties off
    before they bite and damage the nutrient exchange. The jobs done, the wood’s insistent. How easy it is to train young branches!
  • If your trees are tied to stakes re think these as well. Dwarf rootstocks need a permanent stake so refresh these ties and check the stakes while you’re at it. Medium to large trees only need a stake for the first couple of years, so if all is well – set them free.

Sharpen Up

Put tool sharpening (seceteurs and loppers) on your June to do list. Change the blade in your saw as well if need be. Give them a good old clean.

Not only dreamy to use, but sharp tools are essential for clean cuts. A clean cut with a tidy edge leaves no place for bacteria to stick to.

A Pre Prune Ponder

pre prune ponder
  • Notice the dead and damaged.
  • Notice the height and spread. Does this tree need more vigour or does it needs stopping in it’s tracks?!
  • Notice the clutter. Your goal is for all wood to bask in light. Where does your tree need more light?
  • Notice the shape. Is it balanced? There’s strength in balance. Do you need to even the tree up?
  • Are there gaps where you wish for a branch? Especially relevant for young trees this. Make the most of the reachable spaces by creating easy to reach productive branches with notching.
  • In mature trees, you may be taking an older, over shadowed branch right off in order to keep fresh new growth coming on. Which branch will it be?

Use the following descriptions as a guide to help you plan your prune.

A Central Leader For Apples And Pears

I don’t know about you, but pruning descriptions make me glaze over. Take this out to the tree and read it while you look – Johnny on the spot. Hopefully now it makes sense.

Central leader

A central leader is defined by the single stem (trunk or leader) that runs from the ground to the top of the tree. From this one leader, 3 scaffolds (tiers or layers) of branches spring. Each scaffold consists of 3 to 5 branches coming from the trunk within 300mm of each other.

Leader and scaffold on Mayflower Apples
Generous gaps between the scaffolds

The space between each scaffold should be 400mm (for a small rootstock) to 900mm (for a large rootstock). From these branches laterals (shoots) arise. On these laterals come the spurs (buds) that grow the flowers and fruits.

A Pyramid Shape

Sculpting central leaders into a triangle or pyramid shape achieves great light penetration. The first scaffold (at hip height) is long and flat, the second (about shoulder height) shorter,  the third (about head height) shorter still.

There are so many advantages here – light gets to every nook and cranny, you can reach in with ease to thin and pick, and the low centre of gravity makes for a robust, strong tree.

A Vase Shaped Tree For Stone Fruit


A vase shape suits the spreading tendencies of stone fruit trees, and vigorous apples that wont behave!

Evenly spaced scaffold branches come off the trunk at about hip height, within 300mm of each other. From these scaffolds secondary branches spring.

Spread the spacings of these secondary branches so they don’t get tangled in each other. Keep the centre of the tree completely open for good light distribution