Growing your own fruit is incredibly satisfying, and it’s a lot easier than you might think, but you will need to do some basic tree care to ensure a rich and regular crop. At first you’ll be protecting and fertilizing your young tree, and water could be essential depending on the species and your climate, but the main thing that needs done is pruning. That can seem like a daunting task, but if you stay on top of it there’s no need for it to be a big job. The key thing is doing it the right way at the right time – if you get it right you’ll be rewarded with an impressive harvest!
To help you work out how and when to prune fruit trees you need to understand why you’re doing it in the first place. There are a few reasons for doing it:
To maintain general health. Trees slowly accumulate dead and diseased branches. It will be healthier if any diseased parts are cut away and disposed of – this will prevent the problem spreading, and also ensure the tree doesn’t waste resources on them. Dead branches can rot or attract fungi, and either of these problems might then spread to healthy wood. If you have severe winters the extra weight of ice on dead branches can also cause damage.
To shape the tree. Left to their own devices fruit trees can grow into awkward shapes that make it hard to harvest the crop. For most species you want a lot of branches growing horizontal or close to it; this spreading shape makes it easier to get at the fruit when it’s ripe. Getting at high branches through a dense canopy of lower ones is a real struggle and you want to avoid this.
To promote growth. Cutting a tree back, if it’s done at the right time, encourages vigorous new growth with lots of flowers – and, later, lots of fruit.