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Pruning fruit trees in the summer for more fruit

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TheMotorcycleBoy
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Pruning fruit trees in the summer for more fruit

#223594

Postby TheMotorcycleBoy » May 22nd, 2019, 10:09 am

Hi all,

I remember listening to a GQT episode GQT on Radio 4 a while ago. A member of the panel when discussing Apple tree repair stated "when you prune in the winter you're pruning for wood, and when you prune in the summer you are pruning for fruit".

This has stuck in my mind since, as it makes a lot of sense in so far as, I believe that when one cuts any plant without killing it, the plant's response is go on the defence. In the summer, of course, a fruit tree's reaction is to make more fruit, since there are then more seeds of that species in order to further it. Well that's my theory at least.

We have several fruit trees at home and I'm experimenting, very cautiously, with this technique this year. The chosen subject is a Oullins Golden gage. We've had this for about 5-6 years, it was about 2.5 feet when we planted it. It's about 12-15 feet now, I guess. The first few years were very disappointing, possibly not helped by catching some shade at times from a nearby privet hedge (which I've since reduced). Last year was the first year we got fruit, and it was delicious, especially as a couli.

Wanting to improve it's performance year on year, last weekend I snipped off a few pieces of recent growth. Just the odd awkward looking inner shoot, and a few small vertical (sun reachers) ones which have sprouted mid branch on a couple of the more horizontal branches. These morning, Mel spotted a few very small baby fruits, so at least we should get some produce this year.

However I wondered if anyone here on TLF has similar experiences of natural techniques to encourage more produce, and discourage bi-annual bearing, etc.

Many thanks
Matt

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Re: Pruning fruit trees in the summer for more fruit

#223617

Postby Gengulphus » May 22nd, 2019, 11:22 am

TheMotorcycleBoy wrote:However I wondered if anyone here on TLF has similar experiences of natural techniques to encourage more produce, and discourage bi-annual bearing, etc.

The standard advice I've seen about this is the somewhat counterintuitive 'thin the fruit at an early stage' - the theory being that by thinning the fruit early (the earlier the better, including removing excessive fruit buds before they've even flowered), you're limiting the energy and nutrients put into seed production, which is a major part of the entire energy & nutrients cost of fruit production to the tree. That encourages it to put more into producing the flesh of each fruit, so that you get fewer but bigger fruits, and also helps to prevent it overtaxing itself, which is the basic cause of biennial bearing. The more 'bumper' a year looks like being, the more important it is.

In terms of practical experience, I have to admit to not having done it very consistently... :-( As a result, about all I can say from experience is that I don't think it's done any harm, and might have done some good.

Gengulphus

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Re: Pruning fruit trees in the summer for more fruit

#223619

Postby Breelander » May 22nd, 2019, 11:24 am

TheMotorcycleBoy wrote:...A member of the panel when discussing Apple tree repair stated "when you prune in the winter you're pruning for wood, and when you prune in the summer you are pruning for fruit"....



Makes sense, but the main reason (according to Monty Don) for summer pruning fruit trees is that after a winter/spring prune you'll get massive new regrowth in the spring (rather defeating the object of pruning). A summer prune after the sap has stopped rising is the best time if you want to control the size and shape of the tree. A side effect would be that the following year you'll get bigger/better fruit on the branches that remain.

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Re: Pruning fruit trees in the summer for more fruit

#223621

Postby kempiejon » May 22nd, 2019, 11:30 am

Gengulphus wrote:
TheMotorcycleBoy wrote:However I wondered if anyone here on TLF has similar experiences of natural techniques to encourage more produce, and discourage bi-annual bearing, etc.

The standard advice I've seen about this is the somewhat counterintuitive 'thin the fruit at an early stage' - the theory being that by thinning the fruit early (the earlier the better, including removing excessive fruit buds before they've even flowered), you're limiting the energy and nutrients put into seed production, which is a major part of the entire energy & nutrients cost of fruit production to the tree. That encourages it to put more into producing the flesh of each fruit, so that you get fewer but bigger fruits, and also helps to prevent it overtaxing itself, which is the basic cause of biennial bearing. The more 'bumper' a year looks like being, the more important it is.

In terms of practical experience, I have to admit to not having done it very consistently... :-( As a result, about all I can say from experience is that I don't think it's done any harm, and might have done some good.

Gengulphus


I heard a tale that California peach farmers that pruned their neighbours fields and had their neighbours reciprocate had larger more valuable fruits than those that did their own fruit thinning. The idea being leaving just one fruitlet/flower per spur gives better fruit but although the farmers really know this they can't be as drastic with their own trees as they could with neighbours.
On my sweetcorn plants removing to just one cobs per plant certainly gave better crop than those where I let 2 or 3 try to grow

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Re: Pruning fruit trees in the summer for more fruit

#223673

Postby TheMotorcycleBoy » May 22nd, 2019, 1:49 pm

Gengulphus wrote:
TheMotorcycleBoy wrote:However I wondered if anyone here on TLF has similar experiences of natural techniques to encourage more produce, and discourage bi-annual bearing, etc.

The standard advice I've seen about this is the somewhat counterintuitive 'thin the fruit at an early stage' - the theory being that by thinning the fruit early (the earlier the better, including removing excessive fruit buds before they've even flowered), you're limiting the energy and nutrients put into seed production, which is a major part of the entire energy & nutrients cost of fruit production to the tree. That encourages it to put more into producing the flesh of each fruit, so that you get fewer but bigger fruits, and also helps to prevent it overtaxing itself, which is the basic cause of biennial bearing. The more 'bumper' a year looks like being, the more important it is.

In terms of practical experience, I have to admit to not having done it very consistently... :-( As a result, about all I can say from experience is that I don't think it's done any harm, and might have done some good.

Gengulphus

Thanks Geng,

TBH, We don't have an issue with too many little fruits, it's so far just been a case of getting the bugger to produce anything. Perhaps gages need to be at least certain age before they full crop. IIRC about 3 years ago we got the first fruits (not very many) and it seems to be steadily picking up now. Hopefully since I have dropped about 18" off a nearby hedge we'll do a lot better this year.


Breelander wrote:
TheMotorcycleBoy wrote:...A member of the panel when discussing Apple tree repair stated "when you prune in the winter you're pruning for wood, and when you prune in the summer you are pruning for fruit"....

Makes sense, but the main reason (according to Monty Don) for summer pruning fruit trees is that after a winter/spring prune you'll get massive new regrowth in the spring (rather defeating the object of pruning). A summer prune after the sap has stopped rising is the best time if you want to control the size and shape of the tree. A side effect would be that the following year you'll get bigger/better fruit on the branches that remain.

Hi BL,

Are referring to the trim later in the year after it's cropped? I did take off a few lower branches last year, to make it easier to mow around. Hmm.... I've forgotten what month that was, I'm pretty sure it still had some leaves, maybe Sept-Oct?

Matt

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Re: Pruning fruit trees in the summer for more fruit

#223686

Postby Breelander » May 22nd, 2019, 2:43 pm

TheMotorcycleBoy wrote:Are referring to the trim later in the year after it's cropped? I did take off a few lower branches last year, to make it easier to mow around. Hmm.... I've forgotten what month that was, I'm pretty sure it still had some leaves, maybe Sept-Oct?


Yes, exactly. If you had done it in the spring you'd have got a mass of new shoots around the cut as the tree would have still been in full-on spring vigour.

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Re: Pruning fruit trees in the summer for more fruit

#223734

Postby TheMotorcycleBoy » May 22nd, 2019, 5:16 pm

Breelander wrote:
TheMotorcycleBoy wrote:Are referring to the trim later in the year after it's cropped? I did take off a few lower branches last year, to make it easier to mow around. Hmm.... I've forgotten what month that was, I'm pretty sure it still had some leaves, maybe Sept-Oct?


Yes, exactly. If you had done it in the spring you'd have got a mass of new shoots around the cut as the tree would have still been in full-on spring vigour.

No, I'd never do that. I've got reasonable experience with tree work. But this is the first year I've tried the "prune just before they fruit" to get more fruit trick. I'm, hopefully this weekend, do something similar on our mature quince, which I've been slowly repairing, since it's a notorious bi-annual bearer.

Matt

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Re: Pruning fruit trees in the summer for more fruit

#223888

Postby bungeejumper » May 23rd, 2019, 9:47 am

TheMotorcycleBoy wrote:TBH, We don't have an issue with too many little fruits, it's so far just been a case of getting the bugger to produce anything. Perhaps gages need to be at least certain age before they full crop. IIRC about 3 years ago we got the first fruits (not very many) and it seems to be steadily picking up now. Hopefully since I have dropped about 18" off a nearby hedge we'll do a lot better this year.

I think you'll find that plums and gages just have good years and (sometimes very) bad years. We have Oullins, Victorias, Rivers Early Prolific and about four other types, and they can sulk for four or five years sometimes. It might be down to the timing of late frosts, which can really spoil the setting, or it might be something else.

It's when you get a bumper year that your problems will start. :lol: Unlike apples or pears, plum trees don't have the common sense to shed any surplus fruit that they can't bring to completion. (The "June drop", and all that.) One year we had probably a tonne of plums on our eight or nine trees. Broke the boughs! Horrible damage.

Can't disagree with the aforegoing advice that you prune in winter to force shooting branch growth, and in summer to shape and control. Don't take more than 30% off any one tree in any one year (in terms of its 'size', not its weight), because that's about as much change as a fruit tree can happily cope with. It took us four or five years to get our mightily overgrown fruit orchard down to a productive basis!

BJ

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Re: Pruning fruit trees in the summer for more fruit

#223986

Postby sg31 » May 23rd, 2019, 1:43 pm

bungeejumper wrote:I think you'll find that plums and gages just have good years and (sometimes very) bad years. We have Oullins, Victorias, Rivers Early Prolific and about four other types, and they can sulk for four or five years sometimes. It might be down to the timing of late frosts, which can really spoil the setting, or it might be something else.

It's when you get a bumper year that your problems will start. :lol: Unlike apples or pears, plum trees don't have the common sense to shed any surplus fruit that they can't bring to completion. (The "June drop", and all that.) One year we had probably a tonne of plums on our eight or nine trees. Broke the boughs! Horrible damage.

Can't disagree with the aforegoing advice that you prune in winter to force shooting branch growth, and in summer to shape and control. Don't take more than 30% off any one tree in any one year (in terms of its 'size', not its weight), because that's about as much change as a fruit tree can happily cope with. It took us four or five years to get our mightily overgrown fruit orchard down to a productive basis!

BJ


When we moved to this house 3.5 years ago there was a Bramley apple tree that was massive, overgrown and sick. We had a tree guy in for some other work and he advised drastic action was the only solution but that it would be 3 to 4 years before it fruited again. It was basically chopped back to 3 main branches a few feet long, everything else went. The first spring we got masses of water shoots which I thinned by half the first winter. The second year I took aut another third and last winter I cut out 20%.

There are probably 4 more 'shoots' to go, 2 next winter and 2 the year after. So it will be 5 years in total. height of the braches is now about 15' which is more than I want so I will need to cut back some of these each year until it gets back to a reasonable size. At least now the drastic pruning has ended the tree has stopped reacting to pruning by growing vigorously. The tree is much healthier than when we arrived, hopefully it will start to crop next year.

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Re: Pruning fruit trees in the summer for more fruit

#224053

Postby Nimrod103 » May 23rd, 2019, 4:49 pm

I remember a gardening programme (might have been the much missed Geoffrey Hamiltion), where the advice on pruning largish apple trees, was to cut out overlapping branches, so that the centre of the tree was relatively open - open enough to throw a hat through. Cut out all diseased and rubbing branches. Winter pruning stimulates growth in the Spring, so Winter prune to get the main branches where you want them. Summer pruning stimulates fruiting spurs to form. Don't forget that some apple trees have flowers at the tips, rather ther than in spurs, and some are tip and spur fruiting. If you cut all the tips off, you are cutting off next years buds.

Plums and gages should only be pruned during the growing season, otherwise there is a danger of disease entering. Plums are a PITA, as someboby mentioned. They flower early so the buds/flowers are sensitive to late frost, bullfinches and lack of bees. Young fruits are delicious to Wood Pigeons (that is my main problem), when ripe they are a magnet for wasps, botrytis and plum moth maggot. And every few years there is a bumper crop which breaks the branches.

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Re: Pruning fruit trees in the summer for more fruit

#224132

Postby TheMotorcycleBoy » May 24th, 2019, 6:27 am

Nimrod103 wrote:Plums and gages should only be pruned during the growing season, otherwise there is a danger of disease entering.

Does that mean don't cut off anything in the dormant phase? i.e. between Dec-Feb these days?

FWIW On the Quince tree I'm repairing I remove the desired low and twisted branches each December. Have done for the past few years and it's gradually getting a nicer shape. But I believe when I has pruned the gage it was Sep-Oct.

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Re: Pruning fruit trees in the summer for more fruit

#224133

Postby TheMotorcycleBoy » May 24th, 2019, 6:31 am

bungeejumper wrote:and in summer to shape and control

We would like to remove about 1 foot in height from the gage. Basically to maintain a reasonable height, and also suggest to the tree that it broadens out.

Firstly do you think maintaining it's height below 15' is reasonable (I don't how height they usually get, forgotten what rootstock it was on etc)? Secondly what month do think is best to do the height reduction?

thanks Matt

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Re: Pruning fruit trees in the summer for more fruit

#224136

Postby TheMotorcycleBoy » May 24th, 2019, 6:48 am

EDIT:
Just had a google, and yes the best advice seems to be to *not* prune these fellas in the winter (due to silver leaf disease), and to hit them some time after they've cropped.
https://www.wikihow.com/Prune-Plum-Trees
https://tamarorganics.co.uk/product/oulins-gage

So I think I've fully answered my "when to prune?" question :lol:

Finally, what's the recommended height? Obviously we'd like to keep the fruit as low as possible, but also curious in terms of keeping the tree healthy. It does like to "reach for the sky" since we have the 6 ft. privet (kind of shared ownership - apparently, so it seems!) hedge just a couple of metres to the south of the gage. The gage is currently 12-15ft I estimate. What's the most sensible height to keep it at?

thanks Matt

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Re: Pruning fruit trees in the summer for more fruit

#224149

Postby bungeejumper » May 24th, 2019, 9:05 am

TheMotorcycleBoy wrote:Finally, what's the recommended height? Obviously we'd like to keep the fruit as low as possible, but also curious in terms of keeping the tree healthy. It does like to "reach for the sky" since we have the 6 ft. privet (kind of shared ownership - apparently, so it seems!) hedge just a couple of metres to the south of the gage. The gage is currently 12-15ft I estimate. What's the most sensible height to keep it at?

Natural heights for plums and gages can go to 20 feet, which would make them purty hard to pick! So, without knowing the tree (or the rootstock), I'd say that the ideal height for a fruit tree is the highest point from which you might be willing to collect the fruit. 8-) Plus a couple of feet for the birds, which will always pick off the topmost fruit because it ripens first.

Not to mention the wasps, which will be in there at the top before you even know that the rest of the crop is ripening. (Drunk wasps are another bio-hazard that nobody has mentioned yet.... :lol: ) Enjoy.

Then again, it may be that your tree is providing useful wind shelter that will make it worth keeping at its present height. Personally I wouldn't want the crown of the tree to be much higher than 10 feet, but radiating branches above that height wouldn't be a bother because they're easy enough to chop off as they happen.

BJ

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Re: Pruning fruit trees in the summer for more fruit

#224315

Postby madhatter » May 24th, 2019, 11:53 pm

I remember a radio station that had a regular slot for gardeners questions, some years ago.

Someone was saying their fruit tree was not producing much/any fruit and the expert said “‘ave yer fed it?”
“FED IT?”
(chuckle) “yer gotta feed it!”

Tried it on my apple and plum trees the last two seasons.

Made sod all difference.

Might be worth considering though.

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Re: Pruning fruit trees in the summer for more fruit

#224356

Postby bungeejumper » May 25th, 2019, 1:16 pm

madhatter wrote:Someone was saying their fruit tree was not producing much/any fruit and the expert said “‘ave yer fed it?”
“FED IT?”
(chuckle) “yer gotta feed it!”

I believe it used to be quite common to plant a chunk of mutton among the roots whenever you were installing a new fruit tree. Nowadays I'm guessing that a few handfuls of bone meal would achieve the same effect. ;)

There are, of course, tree maladies that do require supplements. Some years ago, our James Grieve (apple) started producing sour, blotchy fruits that wouldn't separate naturally from the branches the way that they're supposed to. My wife read on t'interweb that it was short of magnesium, and that she should give the tree a goodly dose of Alka Seltzer.

I laughed. But damn me, it worked. In future I shall be less quick to dismiss the idea that nature needs a bit of help!

BJ (who will probably stick to liquid seaweed, though)

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Re: Pruning fruit trees in the summer for more fruit

#224638

Postby TheMotorcycleBoy » May 27th, 2019, 7:09 am

On the subject of feeding the tree(s). We just have. It was kinda the plan all the time. Mel knows people who she sometimes does rodent (moles) clearance for, and they gave us several bags of rotted horsey-poo. So I've

1. strimmed and sheared a 1 ft annulus around the bases of all the fruit and flowering trees in the lawn.
2. drenched the strimmed areas first
3. liberally manured the annulus, obviously ensuring maximum fingernail penetration :lol:
4. then drenched the areas again.

I'll probably also continue to snip the odd the twig or two off the gage as the fruit growing season continues. I guess all we need now is a scorching summer to seal the deal.

Matt

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Re: Pruning fruit trees in the summer for more fruit

#224674

Postby ReformedCharacter » May 27th, 2019, 10:30 am

TheMotorcycleBoy wrote:On the subject of feeding the tree(s). We just have. It was kinda the plan all the time. Mel knows people who she sometimes does rodent (moles) clearance for, and they gave us several bags of rotted horsey-poo. So I've

1. strimmed and sheared a 1 ft annulus around the bases of all the fruit and flowering trees in the lawn.
2. drenched the strimmed areas first
3. liberally manured the annulus, obviously ensuring maximum fingernail penetration :lol:
4. then drenched the areas again.

I'll probably also continue to snip the odd the twig or two off the gage as the fruit growing season continues. I guess all we need now is a scorching summer to seal the deal.

Matt

Horse manure is good stuff but you do want to make sure that it is really well rotted or it can have undesirable side effects:

Horse manure is an effective fertilizer for fruit trees, but do not use fresh manure. Fresh manure can damage your trees and even kill young saplings due to dangerously high nitrogen content at that stage. It can also increase soil microbial activity, which decreases the amount of soil nutrients available to trees.

https://homeguides.sfgate.com/horse-man ... 39210.html

RC

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Re: Pruning fruit trees in the summer for more fruit

#224677

Postby TheMotorcycleBoy » May 27th, 2019, 10:49 am

ReformedCharacter wrote:
TheMotorcycleBoy wrote:On the subject of feeding the tree(s). We just have. It was kinda the plan all the time. Mel knows people who she sometimes does rodent (moles) clearance for, and they gave us several bags of rotted horsey-poo. So I've

1. strimmed and sheared a 1 ft annulus around the bases of all the fruit and flowering trees in the lawn.
2. drenched the strimmed areas first
3. liberally manured the annulus, obviously ensuring maximum fingernail penetration :lol:
4. then drenched the areas again.

I'll probably also continue to snip the odd the twig or two off the gage as the fruit growing season continues. I guess all we need now is a scorching summer to seal the deal.

Matt

Horse manure is good stuff but you do want to make sure that it is really well rotted or it can have undesirable side effects:

Horse manure is an effective fertilizer for fruit trees, but do not use fresh manure. Fresh manure can damage your trees and even kill young saplings due to dangerously high nitrogen content at that stage. It can also increase soil microbial activity, which decreases the amount of soil nutrients available to trees.

https://homeguides.sfgate.com/horse-man ... 39210.html

RC

I think it was rotted enough. I applied the stuff by hand and it didn't smell at all rancid.

I didn't know why it had to be so well rotted so thanks for the tip.

Matt


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