WINTER PRUNING OF APPLES AND PEARS FOR TRAINING AS OPEN CENTRE BUSHES

Maiden trees should be cut back to a good bud about 750 mm (2 6 inch) from ground level; the cut should be made immediately above a suitable bud, preferably at a place where several buds point in opposite directions. Usually a third to half the wood is removed, according to the growth made. Choose as leaders growths that leave the main stem at an angle of not less than 45 degrees.

With apples, lateral shoots begin to appear on the leading shoots and these may, if time permits, be summer pruned by cutting them back 100 – 125 mm (4 – 5 inch) in June. Such shoots may be cut back to form short spurs in winter. The pruning will, of course, vary according to variety. These such as Worcester Pearmain, which tend to produce their fruit at the ends of long, whippy laterals, are best left or only lightly shortened until fruit buds occur lower down the lateral. On strong soils and on trees worked on strong stocks, less pruning will be required.

After the sixth year trees which are producing a reasonable quantity of bloom may have two-thirds of the laterals reduced to short spurs (rather longer in the case of Worcester, Irish Peach) and the rest left their full length. Some of these may be shortened later if the tree is being too heavily cropped. Later on, it will be necessary to remove some of the older spurs altogether, and one or two large branches in the

interior of the trees should be removed occasionally.

Delayed open centre bushes

To produce delayed open centre trees, shorten the maidens to 0.9 m (3 inch) from ground level, making the cut just above a bud; the bud next to the topmost one is then cut out. From this cut three to five shoots will form, the strongest being made by the topmost bud and the shortest by the one farthest from the top cut. In order to even up the growth, notching may be resorted to. This consists usually of notching 12 mm (½ inch) above the two lowest buds. Pruning the second year consists of removing any shoots that are too low down to form branches and also those which form a narrow angle with the main stem. Try to retain, where possible, five shoots to form the main branches, well spaced. These five shoots should be shortened to half their length, leaving them at different lengths. The central stem should also be shortened to 350 mm (14 inch). Select two buds on opposite sides of this central stem and notch them . to stimulate growth. The third year, the five leading shoots should be pruned to one half their length, staggering the shoots as before. Lateral growths may be shortened according to vigour, or left to form blossom buds.

The range of shapes apples (and often other tree fruits) have been required to grow into has varied. They include standards, half standard bush, dwarf bush, dwarf pyramid and more modern shapes such as the hedgerow forms (which started with the oblique cordons) like the free palmette and now tend to be double or triple row dwarf bush types, grown as spindles or dwarfed bush trees using growth retardants (e.g. Alar, Cultar). The EMLA 9 rootstock has helped and the new M.27 will undoubtedly help, since it is even more dwarfing in its effects. Dwarf trees are popular because:

1. They may be picked from the ground.) Hence lower labour/

) time cost

2. They may be pruned from the ground.)

3. They tend to fruit more quickly, reducing the capital cost and delay in gaining fruit for sale.

4. High quality fruit can be grown more easily and uniformly than is the case for very large trees.

5. Spraying is easier.

6. Overall yields tend to be closer to the optimum per unit of area.

Pears will respond to similar pruning methods, but care must be taken with some varieties. Upright growing varieties such as Cornice should be pruned to outside buds.

Plums are usually grown on a long, half-standard leg, and the main stems should be pruned to 1.2 m – 1.5 m (4 – 5 inch).

In the second and third years, the pruning will be much the same as for apples, in that the leading shoot is encouraged to come from a bud in the right direction so that the branches stay more straight than doglegged. If the branch is already too upright then the chosen bud to cut above would be on the outside – almost downward pointing bud.. After this, the pruning will vary. With plums the ‘less done the better and if a good framework has been formed, only crossing branches need to be removed.

The chosen bud will tend to reduce the uprightness of the branch.

If this bud had been chosen the shoot would have grown very much in the upright/vertical position -such shoots are much slower to fruit and tend to grow ever upwards making management more difficult.

Where the branch is already close to horizontal, it is useful to retain height by choosing to leave the bud at A, whereas bud B would have lost height. When branches loose too much height the fruit may be mud-splashed in heavy rain, and low-hung branches are often best removed.

Spurs build up

The idea of a renewal leader is so that when the branch needs to be replaced, there is a branch to cut back to. Branches tend to drop over the years and also crop further from the centre.

Compound spur systems

Note: ‘Tip bearing’ varieties like Worcester Pearmain and Bramley’s Seedling form tip fruit buds at the end of the young shoots in their year of growth.

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Delayed open centre trees run the centre up to a greater height. This may increase the number of branches – of advantage with small trees.

‘Spindle trees’ are also centre leader trees but remain with a leader in the middle of a tree. In the spindle system the growing laterals are tied horizontally (or nearly) at the end of August. This may induce fruit buds and better secondary branching.

Oblique cordons are really like single branches and are grown at an angle of 45° to a wire framework. Espaliers are also strictly trained to form layers of branches. Generally the leader is allowed to grow about 200 – 300 mm (9 – 12 inch). Usually a downward pointing bud is chosen to reduce the vigour.

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