July is the month for pruning fruit trees, especially well-established ones. A few simple, well-placed cuts can improve fruiting and limit the size of the tree, ensuring it stays compact enough for a small garden.
Find out how to plant a bareroot fruit tree.
Taking out new growth in summer opens up the leaf canopy, improving air circulation. This deters pests and diseases, which thrive in sheltered conditions. It also reduces the amount of water the tree needs, as most water is lost through the leaves. This means that more of the water taken up by the roots is directed into the developing fruits. Removing foliage also helps more sunlight to reach the fruits.
You will need:
The right tool is essential for this task - for more information read our guide to tools for pruning. If you're looking to update your kit, our experts have been busy testing the best secateurs, so you can buy with confidence.
In a hurry? Here are the best buys from this test:
Read our tips for pruning fruit trees in summer.
Shorten the lead shoot
Shorten the lead shoot at the end of each branch at by half its length. Only cut the current season's growth this way, cutting to just above a leaf. This will encourage the production of sideshoots and will help to limit the spread of the tree.
Cut back the sideshoots
Cut the remaining sideshoots along each branch back more severely, to two or three buds from their base of the current season's leafy growth, cutting just above a bud. This encourages the formation of short fruiting spurs.
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Don't cut into woody growth
Leave all the developing fruit intact and don't cut into woody growth.
Lots of other plants need pruning at this time of year – find out what to prune in summer.
Tips for pruning stone fruits
All stone fruits must be pruned in midsummer to avoid infection by a devastating fungal disease known as silver leaf. Don't prune in damp weather and keep the pruning to a minimum once a framework is established.
Always disinfect your secateurs afterwards, with bleach or white spirit, to avoid spreading infection.