Why do we prune fruit trees? (Bearing in mind we don’t prune an oak tree growing in a hedgerow.)
There are four main reason that we prune fruit trees:
To get better quality fruit: it is better to get 100 fully ripe, full sized apples, than 200 apples the size of a golf ball that never fully ripen. So it’s about quality, not necessarily quantity.
To let light and air into the tree: a good fruit tree has a light open airy structure that allows sunshine to all parts of the tree, and allows the breeze to easily blow and flow through the tree, flushing away any spores or stagnant air that may harbour disease.
To keep the tree of a certain size or shape: we may prune a fruit tree to physically reduce its size, or to stop it impinging on another space i.e. in a garden to keep it away from the washing line, shed, greenhouse etc.
To cut out disease, damage and deadwood: pruning to remove these three Ds is considered a way to promote a healthy, productive tree.
Favour the horizontal over the vertical.
Take out branches that cross and or rub on each other.
Look to create light, space and air in the tree.
Aim for an open centre with a wine glass / goblet shape.
Favour outward facing growth and cut out inward facing growth.
Lead image: Here a vertical branch is growing up through the tree and rubbing on the horizontal branch. The vertical branch should be removed.
Wade is an apple tree expert, with over 130 fruit trees in his field orchard, and plenty more as small trees in his backyard permaculture plot, Station Road Permaculture.