How & Why You Need to Prune Fruit Trees

Wade Muggleton
Wednesday, 15th March 2017

Wade Muggleton offers his tips for fruit tree pruning.

Why do we Prune Fruit Trees? (Bearing in mind we don’t prune say an oak tree growing in a hedgerow)

There are 4 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 & 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.



A well made cut to just above the collar should in time heal over completely


Always prune to just above a bud, preferably and outward facing bud.

Summary - The Pruning Mantra

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


Above - before and after the vertical growth has been removed to favour the fruiting horizontal branches


Above - a Young tree pruned in a good open centred goblet shape that allows light and air to all parts of the tree.

Lead Image: Here a vertical branch is growing up through the tree and rubbing on the horizontal branch. The vertical branch should be removed.

Useful links

Book: The Orchard Book by Wade Muggleton

Guidance on garden orchard and fruit tree management

Watch: A practical beginners guide to fruit tree pruning

Fruit tree harvesting, pruning and planting