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With the price of fruit at an all-time high, having your own fruit trees is becoming more and more attractive. If you'd like to get a new tree planted, read on. Or if you're lucky and you’ve inherited an old fruit tree at your place, it might have been neglected; chances are it will really reward you after a little bit of TLC.
Flowering shrubs are pruned to encourage a prolific show of blooms every year; also to maintain their size and shape for aesthetic enjoyment.
Fruit trees, grape and kiwifruit vines and berry canes are pruned to maximise fruit yield and enhance disease resistance. For this article, we’ll be focusing on pruning fruit trees; vines and canes need slightly different pruning techniques.
What to look for: targets for pruning and different types of buds
The first fundamental is getting an understanding of how plants grow – so you know which parts you’re chopping off! Almost all trees and shrubs form their new growth from buds. There are 3 main types of buds:
Dormant Buds – these buds stay dormant through their first season, until the next season when they grow into stems, leaves or flowers. There are different types of dormant buds, outlined below.
Latent Buds – if a dormant bud stays dormant, just sits there and doesn’t wake up for multiple seasons, they’re called latent buds. Latent buds are like plant insurance: if the branch above the bud is broken or cut, the latent bud can spring into life and form a new side shoot.
Adventitious Buds – these buds develop out of a completely new spot; usually where a branch has been damaged or pruned poorly. Unfortunately, they don’t form branches with a strong bond to the tree, so they break off quite easily.
Stem pruning visual guide
Time for another fundamental! When you’re pruning, you are actually wounding the plant; it’s best to do it in a way that allows the plant to heal as quickly and efficiently as possible. Woody plants are quite capable of healing themselves, so the trick is to cut in the particular spot that has the highest concentration of natural healing mechanisms.
A great solution to prevent pathogens entering the fresh cut is to apply Yates PruneTec pruning sealant. PruneTec encourages natural healing and forms an elastic, UV-stable barrier that stretches as the plant grows. It’s a trusted favourite in the horticulture industry; applying PruneTec protection after pruning is standard practice in commercial orchards and vineyards.
An apple tree with Yates PruneTec applied to seal the pruning cut, with natural healing callus beginning to develop. Note the branch collar, visible around the cut.
The general rule of thumb is to prune shortly before new growth begins. This means winter is the peak time for pruning deciduous trees and shrubs, while they're leafless and it's easier to see what needs to be pruned. In cooler areas it’s best to wait until late winter, in areas with no frosts you can begin to prune in mid-winter.
Spring-flowering trees and shrubs need a different approach: prune right after they finish flowering.
Summer and autumn blooming trees and shrubs are best pruned in late winter or very early spring, before their annual growth begins in earnest.
When fruit trees and roses have dropped their leaves and entered winter dormancy, it's highly recommended to give them a clean-up spray of Yates Lime Sulfur. It forms a protective film of sulfur which prevents disease pathogens getting started. It also controls scale and mite pest insects, to give the plant a flying start in spring.
Keeping your pruning tools sharp and well-oiled makes them nicer to use, gives them a much longer lifetime and saves your wallet over the long term.
Select the right-size tool for the branch you’re pruning, to avoid damage to the plant (and the tool):
It’s good practise to clean secateurs and other pruning tools between plants, to avoid spreading disease-causing bacteria and spores from one plant to another. It’s vital to clean tools after removing any plant parts infected by a fungal disease.
The best way to clean is to wipe the tool blades with methylated spirits, bleach, or alcohol wipes, then rinse with water.