Pondering Pruning and New Fruit Trees

apples summer

Oh, the difference when we ponder! It’s a game-changing state of mind. And it is my gift to you this May – to send you off for a tool-free wander, to ponder your winter’s pruning.

Having no tools to hand takes the pressure off, making it the perfect pre-prune exercise for those of you who fear pruning (and for those of you the tree’s fear!)

Consider these questions, and as you do, do some virtual pruning in response. Don’t be tied up in knots – there is no commitment today, no cutting, just play.

  • What old/ damaged wood will you remove this year?
  • Is your tree open – can light touch every nook and cranny?
  • Is your tree a practical height?
  • Is your tree a strong, balanced shape?
  • Can you identify the fruiting buds?
tie a branhc down

It’s not all about cutting (perhaps shaping is a better word). Young branches can be tied down to open the tree – encouraging it to grow out, not up. A useful technique for filling gaps that are created when old wood’s removed. 

This practice run will help you heaps when it comes to doing the real thing.

My little book is here help you through it all. And once I get myself together a few workshops about the place too.

Planning for Fruit Trees

Fruit Tree planting time is around the corner – hurrah! As exciting as it is though, please don’t rush in. Choosing a spot for your fruit trees requires a bit of thought.

Once you’ve decided on a spot, my top tip is to write the name of the tree on a stake and bang it in where you think it ought to go.

Ponder a while.

Before ordering, before digging holes, double check your spacings and all the other important details (sun, wind, access, overhead wires…)

Far easier to move a stake, than a tree. Trust me.

pre plant marinade


  1. Ephraim Smith says

    Hi Kath,
    I bought your pruning book – great read!!
    Hey one thing I was unsure about is pruning fairly new plum trees – they are not looking a great shape from the nursery with pretty much just a 2.5mtr tall leader & a few sprouts at the top where they have lopped it of at some point, & a few Randomly spaced spindly branches below.
    Could I just start again & lop the whole lot off at 1 Mtr this winter? Will it create a new leader from there or do I have to train a leader from the new branches that sprout out?

    • When you say fairly new does that mean you’ve just bought them and are about to plant – in that case yes! Lop it off to a strong bud at your hip height or there abouts. Far better to remove all branches and start afresh. Its a full on cut to make so make it in good spirit sending the positive vibe to your tree, not the fear one 🙂

      • Ephraim Smith says

        Thanks Kath, will do!!!
        I am keen to understand- does one of the new sprouting branches automatically become a new leader? Do I have to train a new leader or does it just happen? Thanks so much 🙂

        • Yes a new leader will sprout. That bud that you cut to back to contains within it enough energy to burst forth into a new shoot. Trust the process and take each step as it comes. Have faith e hoa 🙂

  2. Hi Kath, I have around an acre set aside for a food forest and already had bananas, sugar cane, babaco in the centre with nasturtiums and canna lillies in patches, and then surrounded by natives on sou west and a range of fruit trees spread around. I was getting ready to mulch and plant this autumn. The Kikuyu & twitch was proving difficult but kunekune pigs have helped cearing ouit a whole corner so where I would start. Yay! I didn’t want to ring them and thrilled they are dealing with the grass, but they have completely demolished the bananas! If I plant there now I know they will dig it up. I feel like I’m one step forward and twenty steps back. How do you keep your pigs at bay?

    • I hear ya! Pigs are awesome for weeding up runner roots – convulvulus too but dynamite for plants you want to keep. A few ideas – rotational type runs giving pigs controlled entry when you want them to clean up after annual cropping and prepare for the next plantings. Or for perennial areas use the pigs as the initial clean up and then deep mulch and dense plantings and no more pigs, move them to the next bit needing cleanup and use a more gentle weeding animal like chooks on a needs basis once perennials are established to help keep kikuyu down.