July in the Orchard

Planting fruit trees is a pleasure – it’s those visions of cellared apples, of bottled pears and fresh apricots that make it so.

How to tie a fruit tree

how to tie a new fruit tree

Please stake your new trees well. Remove that flimsy bamboo stake and the green tape that holds it there (these are not intended to be permanent). Drive a robust stake like a warratah or 2×2 into the ground about 20cm away from the trunk on the windward side. Affix the tree to the stake with soft stocking tie.

A stake is simply a bit of support whilst the root system grows, its not a replacement for the trunk. You want your new tree to move a bit with the wind, this way it’ll peg down more roots in response. Big strong roots means a big strong tree. They also mean the tree will have the resources to cope through drought, big winds and heavy crops. If you don’t let it move on its own it’ll be reliant on that stake forever.

If you are in a really windy site then a stake each side please. Remove the stakes after 2 years (you’ll know when its ready.) If your trees are on dwarf rootstock then stakes are forever. Which is why I’d alway choose a bigger rootstock. Independence is a character I do so admire.

Is your pruning going well? Here are 3 key points to guide you in the right direction.

1. Let the light shine in

vase shaped plum tree

Vase shaped Plum Tree

If you are creating a vase shape (stonefruits and perhaps apples too) then you have about 5 evenly spaced leaders coming off the trunk at about hip height. Clean the middle right out, and anything growing towards the middle. Outward bound–thats what we want. Clean out all growths underneath the main branches as these will be in the shade come summer.

If you are creating a single leader (pipfruits) then you will have one main trunk with three tiers of branches coming off it. Leave big long daddy size branches for the first tier (at about hip height); shorter mummy sized branches for the second tier (about shoulder height) and little wee baby sized branches for the top (top of head height). This pyramid shape allows great light distribution.

2. A robust, strong shape

Essential for trees to cope in big winds and under big crops. 3metres is my max height and width. I also like a nice low centre of gravity. Possibly I am biased being a bit of a shorty, but the best things do come in small packages (my grandma told me so). To achieve this I start all my trees off at about hip height. Low beginnings means more fruit in a smaller space. Be sure to leave about 1 metre of nice clear trunk underneath for a good healthy airflow.

3. Pruning is about renewal

Remove dead, diseased and damaged wood to inspire your tree to produce new growths.  Depending on type of fruit tree these new growths will start to bear fruit in 1 – 3 years. Keep making way for the new by leaving behind a good stash of pencil sized growths. These are the future fruits for your cellar.



  1. I love your new website… the little/beautiful side bars make it so easy to access past information as well as specific information needed.
    Thanks for all your great advice… we just used it for our community orchard pruning day.

  2. Really great reminders of what I learnt at the comunity orchard’s pruning workshop – thank you Mel and thank you Kath for sharing your knowledge!