Summertime is the perfect time to do some pruning on your fruit trees and give them the attention they need.
Who Do Summer Pruning?
When you prune trees like apple and pear trees in summertime, you allow in more sunlight and also let some air in to reach your fruit. This helps fruit to grow larger and have more flavour and colour. It also allows the tree and its fruit to better protect against pests and disease.
When you perform some summer pruning, you are protecting your crop for the coming year. Getting rid of the shoots from the current year’s growth helps the tree make more fruiting spurs, which leads to a better and bigger harvest the following year.
What Trees Should Be Pruned
You can prune your apple and pear trees to form them into shapes like fans, espaliers and cordons. You are not as likely to get these shapes if you prune in the winter.
What Is the Best Time to Prune?
If you are pruning apples, you can do so from mid-August to late in the month. For pears, you should prune around mid-July. If you live somewhere north of the UK, then you want to add about another 10 days before you begin your pruning.
The region you are in, the weather for that area and how the tree is growing all factor into when the best time would be to prune. If you don’t know when to prune this year, then look at the new shoots that are forming.
When the tree is ready for a pruning, its shoots will have some dark green leaves known as adult leaves. Trees that are not ready to be pruned will have smaller, lighter-hued leaves. They will also have some leaves in clusters near the base. The shoots’ lower parts, where they connect to the trunk, will be woody and stiff. For larger trees it would be wise to seek a local arborist or tree surgeon to assist with the prune.
What Needs to Be Done to Prune Properly?
You want to cut any shoots that have grown more than 20cm. Make them about 7.5cm and cut above where the leaf or bud is. This should leave you with a stub that has two or three remaining buds. If the new shoots are less than 20cm, then you can ignore those since they will have fruit buds.
You will want to get rid of any water shoots as well. These shoots grow out from the primary branches and are created after you do some hard pruning in the winter. These shoots take a lot of energy from your tree, and you will only want to keep them if you like the way they shape the tree or if you want to replace a damaged one.
You may see some secondary growth once summer pruning is through, and you can remove that in September. This may not help at times, and it may be necessary to leave some of the shoots and allow them to grow a bit longer. These will grow while any secondary growth will be stifled.
Fruit tree pruning is ideal for summer days, and if you do it properly, you can enjoy a bigger, more bountiful crop of pears and apples.
Based in Cardiff, James Frazer is a keen gardener, primarily interested in fruit trees and bushes.
Growing fruit is incredibly rewarding, as long as your trees or bushes are productive – but how do you get the best out of them? We have produced this guides with all the tips and tricks you need for the following fruits (click to jump to section)
Unlike many plant groups that you can care for generally, each fruit requires different treatment to get the best yields. Prune at the wrong time and you could be cutting off your crops or laying them open to disease.
At the very least, feed them well in spring, mulch and water during drought.
Apples & Pears
Apples and pears are generally easy to care for, although correct pruning is essential for the formation of flower buds.
Plants should be pruned every year to get the best crop, generally in summer for espalier, bushes, fans and pyramids and summer and winter for trees. The aim of pruning is to increase flower bud formation and restrict excessive growth. However, prune too hard and you’ll encourage excessive growth of water shoots, which bear no fruit buds, so never remove more than a quarter of the canopy in one season.
Feed trees in early spring with a balanced general fertiliser (such as Growmore) at 100g per square metre. It’s important not to overfeed, as a condition called bitter pit can occur – keep feeding and watering steady during the growing season.
Apples and pears thrive in a sunny, sheltered site, away from any frost pockets and poorly-drained or shallow soils.
Biennial bearing, or trees having a huge crop one year and next to nothing the next, can be a problem. It can be triggered by excessive feeding one year, or frost/drought killing off all blooms, so the plant has extra energy to form fruit buds for the next year. Once it has happened, it’s often hard to regulate the tree’s fruiting mechanism. However, try to avoid too much fertiliser, water regularly during dry spells, mulch and clear away competing plants and weeds.
Apricots are a stone fruit, part of the Prunus family, which includes cherries, plums, nectarines, almonds and hybrids. Where other fruit trees are improved by winter pruning, avoid cutting them back then, as the tree can become infected by silver leaf disease. Members of the Prunus family don’t need much pruning but if you must cut a tree back, do it from the end of July to the end of August.
Apricot blossom forms very early in the season and can be ruined by frost. Plant them away from the morning sun (avoid east-facing) – this will destroy flowers. If a series of heavy frosts is forecast, cover the tree with fleece supported by canes so it doesn’t touch the tree but remove it during the day so insects can pollinate the flowers.
You can hand-pollinate for a bigger yield, using a soft artist’s paintbrush or cotton bud. Midday on a dry, sunny day is ideal, preferably for a few days in a row. Afterwards, mist the tree with water – the flowers should be dry by nightfall.
Apricots often set bigger crops than they can support and naturally shed some. However, to enable the fruit to develop to their full size and flavour, thin to about 8-10cm apart when they are the size of hazelnuts – remove any defective fruit first.
In late February, feed with a general granular fertiliser such as Growmore at 70g per square metre, then mulch with a 5cm layer of well-rotted manure or compost, in March or early April.
Apricots are susceptible to drought, especially when newly-planted – they will drop their fruit in protest. Water frequently in the first spring and summer, and established trees may need watering when the fruit starts to swell.
Blackberries and related hybrid berries (such as Tayberries) are an easy choice for beginners to achieve a successful crop. Thornless, compact varieties are attractive enough to be grown over obelisks in the flower border, as they have great autumn foliage colour.
Although, they will fruit in light shade, blackberries will bear the largest yields in a sunny, sheltered site, on moisture-retentive, but free-draining soil. On chalky, sandy, or heavy clay, add bulky organic matter.
After planting, cut down all canes to a healthy bud to encourage vigorous, healthy shoots. Regularly tie in these shoots to the plant’s support.
Top-dress blackberries with 100g per square metre of general-purpose fertiliser (such as Growmore) in mid-spring. Cover with a 7cm mulch of well-rotted manure or compost but keep this clear of the crown to prevent new canes rotting.
Young plants will need watering every 7-10 days, after planting and during fruit formation, unless the weather is wet. Established plants shouldn’t need watering unless the summer is very dry, when a good drenching every 10-14 days will help fruit size.
Birds can wreck a crop, so it’s best to net canes to keep them off.
Blueberries are tricky to grow well if you have alkaline soil. They’re lime haters and need an acid soil of pH 5.5 or lower to remain healthy. Even if your soil is on the acid side, check the pH each spring and add sulphur chips if it needs lowering.
If your soil has a higher pH (check with a pH test kit or meter), it’s best to grow blueberries in containers using ericaceous compost. Pick one that is at least 30cm wide initially, moving up eventually to a 50cm pot.
Blueberries need moist compost, but not soaking, and don’t tolerate drought well, so don’t let them dry out. Water with rainwater, not tap water, unless you have no alternative (this will raise the pH level).
Choose your varieties with care – some are self-fertile, some need a different type of blueberry to bear fruit – even self-fertile types will give heavier crops with another bush nearby.
Plant in a sunny, sheltered spot for the biggest crops – while tolerant of shade, your yield will suffer. Add bulky, acidic organic matter to the planting hole, such as pine needles or composted conifer clippings – avoid farmyard manure.
Once the basics are right, boost yields by feeding container plants every month during the growing season using an ericaceous liquid fertiliser or add slow-release fertiliser in spring (again for lime-hating plants).
After the first couple of years, plants should be pruned in late winter, removing a small amount of old wood to encourage new growth.
Birds can decimate crops, so cover bushes with netting or fleece.
Cherries are part of the Prunus family, which includes plums, apricots, nectarines, almonds and hybrids. Where other fruit trees are improved by winter pruning, avoid cutting them back at all costs, as the tree can become infected by silver leaf disease. Members of the Prunus family don’t need much pruning (make sure to choose one on a dwarfing rootstock) but if you must cut a tree back, do it in midsummer.
Many cherries are self-fertile and will fruit happily on their own but the yield will be even better if a different variety is planted nearby so bees, etc, can increase the chance of cross-pollination.
A common problem is that their early blossom is ruined by frost. You can solve this problem by planting trees where they don’t get the morning sun (avoid east-facing) – this will destroy flowers. If a series of heavy frosts is forecast, cover the tree with fleece but remove it during the day so insects can pollinate the flowers.
Cherries like deep, fertile and well-drained soil – avoid if your garden has shallow, sandy or badly-drained soil. However, some varieties are suitable for growing in a large container.
Feeding cherries is very important – start with a mulch of well-rotted compost or manure in late February, followed by a granular all-purpose fertiliser like Growmore in March at a rate of 100g per square metre. If fruiting was poor last year, add sulphate of potash at 15g per square metre at the same time. Top up the general fertiliser in mid-spring and keep well watered during fruit formation – drought or waterlogging can cause fruit to drop.
Finally, birds are very keen on cherries – you can net smaller trees or cordons but it may be impractical to cover a large tree.
Figs can be grown outdoors in the UK but only successfully in milder regions. It’s better to grow them in large containers and move them to a sunny location outside after overwintering indoor once all danger of frost is past.
Figs are unusual, as flowers develop from fruitlets, which plants can produce from spring to late summer. Only the pea-sized fruitlets produced in late summer survive winter and are advanced enough to flower the next summer. However, fruitlets produced in spring may ripen in greenhouses, giving two crops a year.
To fruit well, figs like to have compact roots, which is why they perform well in pots – start in 30cm containers, repotting every other year, using a pot 5cm larger each time. If you are planting outside, line the planting hole with concrete slabs or similar to restrict root growth. Every other year, dig around the outside of the slabs to trim roots.
For the best yields, in spring, apply a general-purpose granular feed (such as Growmore) and mulch with well-rotted manure or compost.
Once you see young figs, feed plants with liquid tomato fertiliser every two or three weeks, until they start to ripen. Figs also require lots of water during summer but make sure it is free draining – they don’t like to sit in water.
To save the plant’s energy, remove larger fruits that are not mature enough to ripen at the end of the season, leaving the tiny embryo fruits at the shoot tips for the following year.
Grapes require patience – and knowledge – to fruit correctly but by following some basic rules, you can enjoy growing your own bunches.
Firstly, consider where you live. While it’s quite possible to get a decent crop on good garden soil in a sunny spot in southern Britain, your best bet further north (or at altitude) is to grow under glass.
Dessert grapes need to be grown in a greenhouse to ripen properly, while wine varieties are hardier, ripening on a sheltered, sunny, south- or southwest-facing wall or fence.
Grapevines grow on any soil, as long as it is relatively deep and well drained. Once established, outdoor vines are relatively drought-tolerant but will need watering in their first year.
Mulch with 5-7cm of gravel in spring – don’t use manure. During the growing season, water well and feed with a liquid tomato fertiliser.
Pruning correctly is vital for high yields and here’s where the patience comes in. Remove all flowers for the first two years after planting, then allow just three bunches on three-year-old vines. A four-year-old will support about five bunches – allow full cropping from the fifth year.
Indoors, pollination needs a dry atmosphere and gently shaking branches helps. One the grapes are forming, use special grape-thinning scissors to thin the bunches, which will improve ripening, although outdoor wine grapes don’t need this.
Plums, gages and damsons are part of the Prunus family, which includes cherries, apricots, nectarines, almonds and hybrids. Where other fruit trees are improved by winter pruning, avoid cutting them back at this time, as the tree can become infected by silver leaf disease. Members of the Prunus family don’t need much pruning (make sure to choose one on a dwarfing rootstock) but if you must cut a tree back, do it in midsummer and make pruning cuts as small as possible.
Some plum varieties can bear huge crops one year, followed by much smaller yields the next – basically, the tree exhausts itself and needs to build up its strength.
Increase yearly yields by watering and feeding at the right times. On established trees, top-dress with sulphate of potash in February. In mid-spring, mulch with well-rotted manure or compost to retain soil moisture and provide much-needed nitrogen. For an extra boost, add a top-dressing of organic dried poultry manure pellets or non-organic sulphate of ammonia.
Plums are one of the earliest flowering of the stone fruits and their early blossom can be ruined by frost. You can solve this problem by planting them where they don’t get the morning sun (avoid east-facing) – this will destroy flowers. If a series of heavy frosts is forecast, cover the tree with fleece but remove it during the day so insects can pollinate the flowers.
Plums require a lot of water so like loamy or clay soils but hate being waterlogged – add lots of bulky organic matter if you have shallow or sandy soil. If growing in a container, make sure it is large enough so the tree isn’t short of water.
Raspberries are an easy-to-grow cane fruit, fruiting either in summer or autumn.
They love moisture-retentive, fertile, slightly acidic soils, which are well-drained. Avoid waterlogged and chalky soils.
The canes do best in a sheltered, sunny position – they will tolerate part shade. Raspberries are self-fertile and pollinated by insects, so avoid a windy site.
Yields depend very much on pruning. For summer-fruiting raspberries, cut back fruited canes to ground level after harvesting. Choose six to eight strong canes per plant, and remove the rest at ground level.
Autumn-fruiting raspberries are even easier – simply cut back all canes to ground level in February, reducing the number in summer if they are overcrowded.
In mid-spring, sprinkle a granular fertiliser (such as Growmore or blood, fish and bone) around plants at 35g per square metre, then add a mulch of garden compost – avoid mushroom compost or very rich manure as it may burn new shoots. If last year’s crop was poor, add dried poultry manure pellets at 100 per square metre.
Feed monthly with a liquid general-purpose fertiliser during the growing season.
Alex works in the Primrose buying team, sourcing exciting new varieties of plants.
As a psychology graduate it is ironic that he understands plants better than people but a benefit for the purpose of writing this blog.
An enthusiastic gardener, all he needs now is a garden and he’ll be on the path to greatness. Alex’s special talents include superior planter knowledge and the ability to put a gardening twist on any current affairs story.
Clematis are immensely popular climbing plants, flowering from late winter to late summer, depending on the variety. Grow them on walls, pergolas, in containers, scrambling through trees and shrubs or left sprawling along the soil as unusual ground cover.
If planting next to a wall or fence, dig the hole at least 60cm (2 feet) away and train the plant along the cane. Clematis perform best when their roots are shaded – either plant in front of them or cover the area with a mulch of stones or pebbles. They need moisture-retentive, but well-drained soil, in full sun or partial shade.
Dig a hole twice as wide as the plant’s pot and half as deep again. Add well rotted organic matter to the bottom of the hole and a handful of general granular fertiliser.
After soaking the plant in its pot, remove it together with its cane. Tease out some of the roots and place in the hole.
Plant large-flowered cultivars that bloom in May/June with their root balls 5-8cm (2-3in) below the soil surface. Herbaceous and evergreen species can be planted with the crown at soil level. Fill the hole with a mixture of soil and compost and water in well.
If planting in containers, choose a smaller-growing cultivar, using a pot at least 45cm (18in) deep and wide with a soil-based potting compost such as John Innes No 2.
In late winter or early spring, apply a potassium-rich fertiliser (such as rose fertiliser) and mulch afterwards with well-rotted manure, leafmould or compost. Water regularly during dry weather in the first few seasons.
For container plants, top dress each spring by replacing the top 2.5cm (1 inch) of soil with fresh potting compost. Protect roots in winter from frost by wrapping the pot in bubble wrap.
Water thoroughly and feed monthly during the growing season.
Clematis is notorious for being difficult to prune but that’s not the case, as long as you know which pruning group it belongs to (based on when it flowers).
When first planted, cut all clematis back to 15-30cm (6”-1ft) from soil level in February or March, cutting just above a bud. This will encourage branching and more flowers.
Group 1 – flowering in spring on shoots produced the previous season, such as C. montana, C. cirrhosa, C. alpina. Prune just after flowering in mid- to late spring if needed – no regular pruning is essential.
Group 2 – large-flowered hybrids, blooming May/June. Prune in February/March and after the first flush of flowers in early summer. The aim is to keep a framework of old wood and promote new shoots.
Group 3 – plants that flower on that season’s growth and herbaceous clematis. Cut back hard in February/March 15-30cm (6in-1ft) from soil level to healthy buds. If left unpruned, they will continue growing from where they left off the previous season, flowering well above eye level and with a bare base.
Small-flowered clematis with attractive seedheads can just be trimmed back to the main framework of branches.
There is no doubt that roses are one of the most popular flowers to grow in Britain. In fact, so many are planted each year that if you set them out as a single row these plants would circle the equator! With the proper care and maintenance you can expect your rose to last for at least 20 years. However, many roses fail to thrive and a lot of that is due to improper planting and care. There are several elements to consider before attempting to plant a rose in your garden and this step-by-step guide should help you to navigate the pitfalls ensuring your rose is a success!
Choosing the correct position for planting your rose is crucial. If it is not in a suitable spot it will not thrive. Plenty of sun is needed for your rose to grow, slight shade in the afternoon is good but not continuous shade. Your rose needs shelter from the cold winds. A nearby hedge or fence is good but should not be too close that it shades the bush. Your rose will need good drainage as it will not grow in waterlogged soil.
When planting your rose it is important that the soil is suitable. Ideally the soil should be medium loam, slightly acid with a PH of 6.0-6.5 and reasonably rich in plant foods and humus. Roses cannot thrive if the soil conditions are poor. Roses should be planted from Late October to March and the ground should not be waterlogged or frozen.
Preparing the Rose
Cut off any leaves, hips or buds that may still be present. If the stems are shrivelled place all of the bush in water for several hours. Cut off any decayed or thin shoots before planting. Plunge roots into a bucket of water if they seem dry. It is crucial that the roots do not dry out before planting and make sure they remain covered until you are ready to set the bush in the planting hole. Cut back any long or damaged roots to about 30cm.
Planting the Rose
Mark out planting stations to make sure your rose bush has enough space. There should be a distance of about a metre between each plant. When planting make sure that the bud union is about 2-3cm below the surface.
Caring and Maintenance
Roses benefit from having a layer of mulch on the soil surface around the plants as it reduces weeds, keeps soil moist in summer, improves soil structure, reduces black spots and some mulching material provides plant foods. Some suitable materials used for mulching include moist peat, shredded bark, well rotted manure, good garden compost and leaf mould. Prepare the soil surface for mulching by clearing away debris, dead leaves and weeds. Water the soil surface if it is dry. Spread a 5-7cm layer around the rose. Mulching reduces the need for watering and hoeing but does not replace the need for good feeding.
Roses have a deep-rooting habit meaning that the watering of established plants is not crucial in some seasons. However, some roses need watering after a few days of dry weather. For example, newly planted roses, climbers growing against walls and roses planted in sandy soils. All roses will need plenty of water in a period of drought in spring and summer. When watering, use about 5 litres of water for each bush or standard rose and 15 litres for a climber.
The main purpose of hoeing is to keep down weeds that are not smothered by mulching. Hoeing needs to be done frequently to make sure that the underground parts of the weeds are starved. Do not hoe any deeper than 2-3cm below the surface or the roots could be damaged.
Roses are perhaps the most popular flower for cutting and using as decoration. To make sure you don’t weaken the rose bush, do not take more than one third of the flowering stem with the flower. Cut just above an outward facing bud. Do not cut struggling or newly planted roses.
Roses make heavy demands on plant food reserves in soil. If one or more vital elements run short your rose will not thrive. Feed your rose every year using a proprietary compound fertiliser containing nitrogen, phosphates and potash. You can use powder or granular fertiliser, liquid fertilisers or foliar feeding.
It is important to regularly remove dead blooms. Remove the whole truss when the flowers have faded. Cut the stem just above the second or third leaf down. This will help the rose conserve energy.
Roses do not produce shoots that increase in size steadily each year. Therefore, if they are not pruned the rose becomes a mass of live and dead wood. The purpose of pruning is to get rid of the dead wood each year and encourage the regular development of strong and healthy stems. For more details click here.