How to prune apple trees and pear trees in summer

How to prune apple trees and pear trees in summer

Find out how to summer-prune fruit trees such as apples and pears, in this step-by-step project.

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To do
To do

Do not To do in January

Do not To do in February

Do not To do in March

Do not To do in April

Do not To do in May

Do not To do in June

Do To do in July

Do To do in August

Do not To do in September

Do not To do in October

Do not To do in November

Do not To do in December

All decorative and formally shaped fruit trees, such as espaliers, need summer pruning to regulate new growth and encourage the formation of the stubby ‘spurs’ that bear fruit.

In general pears can be pruned from mid-July, and apples several weeks later, up to about the end of August. This year’s shoots are ready to prune when the lower third has turned woody and firm.

Summer is the only time to prune plums, cherries, gages and damsons, because of their susceptibility to silverleaf disease. Fungal spores can enter through pruning cuts, but from fruiting until the end of August the spores are least active and wounds heal fastest. Make sure you use the best tools for pruning – for clean cuts that heal quickly. Avoid loppers, as they can bruise the stems.

Find out how to prune trained apple trees in summer, as well as other fruit trees, in this simple step by step guide.

In general pears can be pruned from mid-July, and apples several weeks later, up to about the end of August.
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You Will Need

  • Secateurs
  • Pruning saw

Step 1

Removing stems in the wrong place
Removing stems in the wrong place

Take a good look at the whole tree and plan what you want to achieve. Start by removing all the stems that clearly must go: anything dead, diseased or damaged, and any vigorous upright shoots growing above the top tier of branches.

Step 2

Cutting new shoots back to three or four buds
Cutting new shoots back to three or four buds

The shoots in need of pruning are those produced this year – usually laterals from the main branches – which are around 18-23cm long. Cut these back to within three to four leaves of last year’s growth.

Step 3

Pruning cut just above a leaf joint
Pruning cut just above a leaf joint

Make your pruning cuts just above a leaf joint, slanting away from it. Shorten all side shoots, only leaving unpruned ones where needed to extend the main framework of the tree.

Step 4

Cutting growth back to one leaf
Cutting growth back to one leaf

Where shoots have developed from laterals that were pruned last year, cut this year’s growth back to one leaf.

Step 5

Spacing fruiting spurs apart
Spacing fruiting spurs apart

Prune with the aim of spacing the knobbly fruiting spurs around 10cm apart. Thinning overcrowded spurs is best done in winter, but some thinning can be done now if necessary to let more sun on to the ripening fruit.

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Don’t prune tip-bearing cultivars

With apples, make sure your variety is a spurbearer. Tip-bearers mustn’t be pruned in summer, as you’ll remove the developing fruits.

Butterflies. Photo: Getty Images.