Pruning Your Fruit Trees in Winter


The key to keeping fruit trees both attractive and productive is to prune without the trees foliage in winter. This will make it easier to prune, as you can see what you are doing. There are three simple steps that work for the majority of fruit trees. Most of us are dealing with stone fruits like peaches, apricots, plums and cherries – anything with a pit.

  1. Clean Up
  • Start by pruning away branches that are dead, damaged or diseased – known as the three ‘D’s.
  • Suckers, ‘waterspouts’ that are growing from the main branches must be removed.
  • With all of these clean up steps your cuts must be pruned flush to the main stem that they are growing from – don’t leave stubs.
  1. Thin out
  • This will allow more light and air into the canopy which will boost fruit production and reduce problems with pests and diseases.
  • Start by removing any branches that are growing downward, criss-crossing with another branch or a branch that is growing towards the centre of the tree.
  • Remove multiple branches competing with each other, two or more growing from a single crotch or at different points but in parallel fashion.
  • Continue to thin out the tree until there is a good 15 – 30cm of air space around every branch.
  • As with your clean up cuts, it is important to thin the branches back flush to the branch.
  1. Head Back
  • This is the easiest step, you are basically giving your fruit tree a haircut.
  • You will be pruning back the outermost growth of the tree, this will encourage shorter and thicker stems instead of long and gangly. Thicker stems will carry the weight of fruit.
  • Cut back 10 to 30 percent of the previous year’s growth. You can distinguish last year’s growth from two year-old growth by the wrinkly ring of bark encircling each stem.
  • Unlike the previous two steps, these cuts will be made part way into each branch. Exactly where you make the cut is important too. Prune back to a point of 3cm above a bud that faces the direction you want that branch to grown. If there is another branch close by on the left, for example, prune back to a bud on the right side of the branch.



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