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Apples and Pears


By AndrewR


Completed the winter pruning of my top fruit trees this afternoon. I learnt about summer and winter pruning from the late (and much lamented) Geoff Hamilton years ago on Gardeners’ World.

Summer pruning encourages fruiting; winter pruning encourages growth.

The two apple trees were already here and established when I arrived in 1984. I’ve no idea what varieties they are but they still produce a good crop, although the smaller has become biennial (one year good, one year poor). Pruning consists of removing dead or diseased wood, crossing shoots and growths congesting the middle of the tree – this opens up the air flow and reduces the risk of disease. I also reduced the spread of both trees a little this year to make working around them a little easier.

The pears were planted in my first autumn here as they take several years to settle down and start cropping. In fact, they took 19 years which was a longer wait than I had anticiapted! The varieties are Conference and Williams’ Bon Cretien which both flower mid-season so will cross pollinate. They are trained as espaliers against a south-facing fence and underplanted with iris sibirica cultivars. Pruning these is just a matter of keeping the trained shape, removing new shoots growing backwards, too long or trying to grow up from the top of the main trunk.

Now all I have to do is wait eight to nine months for this year’s crop.

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I have dwarf apple and pear trees, with two varieties on each. Last summer, for the first time, I got lots of fruit on both, but they all quickly got brown marks, and the tree leaves browned and shrivelled. I know I need to spray with something, but don't know when or with what! Also, the pear, in particular, put on a lot of tall new growth. I was, therefore, interested to read this blog on fruit pruning, and wondered if the same rule applies to dwarf trees, to keep them at circa 6ft in height?

5 Jan, 2008


It sounds like you have scab (which can be more troublesome in warm, damp conditions). Although the fruit looks awful, the flesh inside is unaffected and can still be eaten. Any good Garden Centre would be able to advise what/when to spray.

Yes, the same rule applies to pruning regardless of the size of the tree (this is governed by the root stock as fruit trees are grafted and the vigour of the rootstock controls the size of the tree). Look for shoots with split bark and prune them out, also remove all infected leaves around the trees to reduce the risk of reinfection with scab.

The growing conditions were very good this year with lots of moisture as well as warmth which would explain why there was such a lot of growth on your pears. I would also suggest NOT feeding them next year as extra nitrogen would exacerbate this.

5 Jan, 2008


Eight to nine months should be a doddle after 19 years :o)

I bet they're worth the wait, we went to the taste of autumn show at RHS Wisley this year and the apples and pears were fantastic. We ended up buying about 2 dozen because the difference in taste from the supermarket stuff was enormous - as if they're different fruit.

5 Jan, 2008


I have planted a maiden 'granny smith' in oct my small sea side look very wispy, so i shortend all the side branches to about 15in, hope i have done the right thing.I have also orderd a 'james grieves' to pollanate it. hope thay like my red clay soil.
still learning----nannydigit.

7 Jan, 2008


Pruning in the first 3 or 4 year years should be to stimulate growth to make the basic framework of the tree so winter pruning of shoots by about half is the best.
The two varieties you have chosen should cross pollinate too. Looking on the 'Fruit Expert', it reckons GS needs a hot summer, favoured locality and long storage if you want to eat it but will be fine for cooking. JG is good but the fruit may need thinning as it sets a heavy crop.

7 Jan, 2008


Many, many thanx for taking the time and trouble to give me such fantastic info and advice. Will follow this this year and look forward to the fruit.

8 Jan, 2008

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