Fruit Tree Aftercare and Pruning Hints


PRUNING  The two year fruit trees are generally pruned to make either Bushes of Half Standard forms. Bushes are easiest to pick fruit from and require little to no staking and are topped at 75cm with the top 25cm or so forming the head (usually five strong buds). Half Standards are preferred for larger mowers to cut around and to make more of a visual impact. These are topped at approx 130cm leaving a clear stem of approx 1 metre. Most of the ornamental trees except the shy growers and weeping varieties are shaped to Half Standard specification to suit modern gardens and the majority of planting situations.

One year trees or 'Maidens' can range in size from 60cm for the very dwarfing Malus 'Laura' to 180+cm for many plums, cherries, and ornamentals. Some naturally produce many side shoots (Cox's Orange Pippin) while others (Bramley's Seedling) produce few or none but instead make a strong single stem.

  FanTrained, Espalier and Step over trees (one tiered low espaliers) -  The 'Stella' cherry left is an example of what can be achieved with a well grown 1yr (Maiden) tree (depending on the variety as some varieties naturally produce lateral side shoots while others naturally don't). Make a simple framework consisting of three upright bamboo canes and two horizontal canes. Its is then simply a matter of tying the lateral shoots to the desired angle to create a fan shape. This forms the initial framework with subsequent summer pruning to keep the size of the tree in check and encourage fruiting buds. Transporting finished trained trees is near impossible without breakage I'm afraid. It really is quite easy, very satisfying and of course much cheaper to purchase a maiden tree to train. I elect to offer just maidens for this purpose. If you tell me that you require your tree(s) for training, I will select the best one available on the nursery for this purpose. I believe my nursery is unique in this service.

Thin out some of the forming fruits if they appear overcrowded, like on this 2yr 'James Grieve' on M.26 rootstock in June photo right.

Photo Left - Paul Jasper showing Monty Don how to prune an apple tree into a 'standard' form at Monty's Leominster garden.

Remember avoid pruning stone fruits in winter as there is danger of 'Silverleaf' infection.

There are many books available on pruning techniques and, like pollination, it's a subject that is sometimes overcomplicated. The most popular and clearest is 'The Fruit Expert' by D.G. Hessayon - PBI Publications.



I offer these high quality (now clear coloured) rabbit guards size 60cm (2feet) with an extra large width of 50mm (2") and overlap on the spiral for added protection. Because they are high quality they will last a good many years and so the extra width will accommodate and still protect the increasing girth of the stem/trunk as they develop.

*Important - If the snow is lying on the ground for an extended time gently tread down the snow around your trees, or clear it away leaving at least a 60cm circle. This will stop hungry rabbits sitting on top of the snow and damaging your valuable trees. The lying snow is a handy step ladder for them!

The price per single guard is 60p+Vat.  (Discount percentage applied to your tree order will also apply to the rabbit guard price).

  When will my trees fruit ?  The answer to this depends on numerous factors The fruit type (apple, pear etc) • The rootstock your variety it grafted on • The pruning technique employed.• The tree's situation/location • Its pollination group - It can easily get complicated but the main thing to remember is your tree has the capacity to bear fruit. There is nothing that a nursery can do to inhibit fruit but formation although a carefully grafted tree will be more likely to perform better. Photo right shows 'James Grieve' apple in early August on a 2yr bush grafted onto a M.26 rootstock. Too much fruit for a 2nd year tree but it illustrates just how early in its life a tree can bear fruit. Pear, plums, and cherries realistically need to have been planted three years or so before any fruit should be expected. Generally speaking once the initial framework is established pruning back the laterals encourages more fruiting buds to form ready to produce fruit in the following season.

Pest Control  There's little point in attempting to convince you that fruit tree growing is always problem free, though with a little pre-planning it's possible to guard against major pests of fruit trees with little or no chemical spraying. Picking fruit from your fruit trees, that you have planted and cared for, really is one of the pleasures in life.

Practise good husbandry by keeping the soil around your trees well cultivated. Pick up any prematurely fallen fruit and any leaves that may have dropped prematurely and destroy them. Keep the area around your trees weed-free and twig-free, inspect them regularly. This way you'll be nipping any problems 'in the bud' before they establish.

It is important to keep and infestation of aphids (and other scale insects) controlled on your trees even if it is with ordinary household detergent (diluted washing up liquid). If you don't, the honeydew which aphids excrete will attract wasps and eventually encourage the fungus 'Sooty Mould'. Sooty Mould although unlikely to kill the tree will spoil the appearance of your fruit and inhibit next years cropping.


Plum Moth Caterpillar causes most damage to plums, damsons, gages. Its small white maggot burrows into fruit and can give the owner a nasty surprise! A Caterpillar Monitor (picture left) in place from late May to early August will trap the males and prevent this problem. One trap will treat approx 5 trees and costs approx £6.00 from most garden centres.

Greasebands (photo right) tied around your fruit trees in October will prevent winter moth females climbing the tree to lay her eggs. A £3.50 (approx) greaseband photo right is long enough to treat approx 8-10 trees. If you tree is staked tie a band around that too! Remember to keep the soil around your trees lightly cultivated this is good practice and will expose any soil born pests to natural predators. It also keep the soil 'open', stops it 'crusting' over in drying winds and allows Spring and Summer rainwater to settle and penetrate the soil more easily for maximum effect.

  Canker  A customer's newly planted apple tree succumbed to canker this season. He kindly sent me a photo and I could see the cause. Notice the 'snag' on the picture left. The tree was pruned to an 'eye' to encourage fruit spurs to form but this particular 'eye' failed to break and the result was dieback and slow healing. This delay allows canker spores to enter the tree and it died from this point upwards. Luckily it will be possible to save the tree by cutting below the dieback and then disinfecting the secateurs. If a bud fails to break, cut the snag back slightly proud of the main stem, this way it will heal more easily and cleanly.
  Ladybirds - our natural pest control friends.  Keep an eye open for Ladybird larva from May, they don't look like the adult that we all know and love. Try not to crush, spray or damage them as they will soon develop into a very useful aphid eater and repay you by repelling invaders from your trees as well as your other plants and shrubs. Photo right > Ladybird larva in June.
  Mice and Voles  Can wreak havoc with newly planted trees especially trees that are planted in a less frequented part of the garden and not firmed properly when planted. A hard winter exacerbates the problem. Favoured are M.26 and M.27 as these dwarfing rootstocks are naturally weaker growers and consequently the roots are more appealing to our furry friends. The best defence is to firm the tree well when you plant and check for any fresh mouse holes around the tree during the first season if the tree appears to be struggling. The good news is that the vulnerability is only for a year or so by which time the trees are strong enough to repel invaders. Photo left shows some exceptionally bad damage on a 1yr apple tree on M.27. Damage like this is very rare but it does show the damage that hungry rodents are capable of.

Caterpillars & Aphids  Keep an eye open especially at the end of May - early June. If you are watchful its possible to control them by unravelling the leaves as soon as they start to distort and remove by hand. Photo right is Black Cherry aphid (Myzus cerasi). Inset photo shows two adults and a young aphid. First sign is the curling of the cherry tree's leaf. Its important to catch them early especially on young trees. They tend to attack trees which are under stress perhaps through drought conditions. Remove the infested leaves if few or spray with either detergent or proprietary chemical from garden centre/shop.

  Wasps  (Vespidae) can be a very annoying pest (a particularly large number here in summer 2010) on most fruit but especially plums and apples if there are nests nearby. The nests can be in farm buildings, sheds, garages in fact anywhere that is relatively undisturbed and can also be located in the open ground with just one entrance/exit hole. The nest should ideally be located and destroyed but if you are averse to this, one of my favourite tricks is to sacrifice a little of the crop before the main attack and cut a few apples or plums into pieces and leave at the base of the trees. They much prefer a ready prepared meal ! Ripening fruit can alternatively be wrapped in a muslin/finely woven cotton bag. The photo left shows a large open ground wasp nest. They like nothing better than to use abandoned mouse or vole holes. Thankfully their numbers diminish as September begins and the majority of apples become ready to pick.
  Peach Leaf Curl (Tapbrina deformans) This is is a condition which depends very much on your location and the amount of rainfall in April. The spores which cause this are carried mainly in April rain so the obvious organic method is to shield your tree (easier if small or trained against a wall of course) with a simple, slightly weighted polythene sheet during this month. Peaches grown under glass obviously escape this problem.
  An extract from the memoirs of Pablo Neruda  "The saws cutting the huge logs ground out their shrill lament all day long, every five or ten minutes the ground shuddered like a drum in the dark at the hard impact of giant works of nature, seeded there by the wind a thousand years before. The forest was dying. I heard its lamentations with a heavy heart, as if I had come there to listen to the oldest voices anyone had ever heard"