Winter pruning fruit trees

Plotholders learn how to whip fruit trees into shape

Published on Sun, 17/03/2024 - 18:42

On a cold morning in late February, more than a dozen plotholders gathered for a pruning workshop from our Committee Chair, Christina.

She explained the aim of pruning apple and pear trees, is to create and maintain a wide cup shape. This shape allows sunlight and air in, creating a healthy tree with lots of fruit.  

The group learnt how to prioritise cutting back branches that were dead, at risk of turning inwards or rubbing on others. They also found out why you shouldn't prune more than a third of the canopy at any one time (answer - it backfires by promoting fruitless shoots known as watershoots.)

After the talk, plotholders were given the chance to have a go themselves using pruning saws, loppers and secateurs on some fruit trees on the site.

"I really valued the opportunity to experiment and apply the concepts I learnt on real trees," plotholder Maria said.

"I found myself more hesitant in practice than I'd expected!"


You should only prune free-standing apples and pears in winter, when they are dormant. This is also true for fruit bushes that bear fruit on new shoots - such as blackcurrants and autumn-fruiting raspberries.

And remember to use clean, sharp tools, as these will cut cleanly and reduce the chance of disease getting in.  

VIDEO CLIP: Alan Titchmarsh on how to sharpen your secateurs