Pruning of fruit plants

Towards the end of winter it is advisable to prune fruit trees; this operation is carried out in a more vigorous manner on young specimens, of which we will also try to conform the development, while on the already old specimens only a cleaning of the crown is performed and thinning of the thickest branches. First of all it is necessary to remove all the weak branches, particularly thin, ruined by bad weather or diseases; at the same time we try to thin out the denser areas of the foliage, with intertwined branches or in excessive numbers. Since in spring these plants will ripen of the fruits that we also want to harvest, it is advisable to try to conform the crown of the small fruit-bearing plants so that the development becomes compact and easy to reach; therefore we try to remove part of the branches that develop excessively upwards, so as to keep most of the fruit on the most accessible branches. To keep the plant well balanced we also practice shortening prunings on the most elongated or excessively developed branches; we are also going to intervene on the outermost branches, removing or shortening the secondary branches which tend to develop excessively, so as to give the foliage a symmetrical and well-balanced shape.

Pruning of fruit trees

Why do you prune fruit trees? The main purpose of this practice is to obtain an abundant and good quality production.
In general we can say that pruning consists of:
- Orient the branches because they have a good exposure (the branches are better to go horizontally rather than vertically)
- Eliminate dead wood
- Balance the weight of the fruits and the vigor of the branches
- Shorten the branches. Those that are too long, in fact, tire out the tree which, consequently, reduces fruiting. A large and tall tree will give less fruit than a small tree with horizontal branches.

General information on pruning

Trees naturally have an apical dominance: the branches grow upwards. If the plant grows at the level of the terminal bud it produces a vertical development of the branch. When, on the other hand, a part of the branch is eliminated, it is the gem located immediately below the cut that will develop the most.
There are two types of gems:
- Flower buds (which will later go to fruit): they are stocky and round, perpendicular to the wood
- Wood gems (from which a new branch will develop): they are long, pointed and inclined.
During pruning, wood buds should be preferred if the tree is young. If it is in the age of full production it will be necessary to privilege flowering buds.


- Cutting tools suitable for the diameter of the branches: shears, saws, loppers or even chainsaws. They must all be well sharpened, cleaned and disinfected.
- A stable double staircase
- Some gloves

Apple and pear trees

These trees are cultivated in small forms, cordon or espalier or in free form.
Formation of an apple tree or free-growing pear tree
1. The first year, at the time of planting, it is necessary to cut the main stem at the height of a side branch. If there are no side branches and you want a bush, shorten the stem to 75 cm.
2. The second year must choose 4 well spaced branches, at the end of autumn, to form the supporting structure of the tree. You will have to shorten them by half (or two thirds, if they are not vigorous). Unwanted branches should be cut at the base.
3. In the third year from those left four branches will be selected again and we will have to start cutting all the branches going inwards.
4. The fourth year will have reached the age to bear fruit. Keep the center of the plant open. Later you will have to constantly maintain this form and also proceed to the elimination of the dry branches, sick and that tend to cross with the others.
Once the training phase is complete, in practice it will only be necessary to maintain the supporting structure. On a tree in full production it will only be necessary to take care to maintain mainly the buds that go to fruit and not the wood ones.
The apple and pear trees generally bear fruit on short spurs on the branches of two years. It is therefore necessary to strive to maintain branches at different stages of development in order to obtain a homogeneous production every year.


Plum trees can be grown as bushes or as trees of different sizes. In small gardens they can be fanned out against a fence or in the shape of a pyramid. Espalier cultivation is not suitable for this type of plant.
Pruning of formation of a plum tree
Plum trees should never be pruned during dormancy. The ideal season is spring, when the buds are already visible.
1. The first year it will be necessary to shorten the trunk to about 1.20 cm. You can cut more or less like this depending on the final result you want to get. You can go from 90 cm for a bush to 2 meters for a tree. The remaining branches will be shortened by half
2. In July he intervenes by shortening the growth from the side branches to 20 cm and from the secondary branches to 15.
3. In the following spring the tip of the central stem will be cut up to two thirds of the growth of the previous year
4. In the summer you will have to prune the growth of the year of the side branches leaving eight leaves from the stem. On the secondary branches, on the other hand, it will be necessary to leave 6. The vigorous jets that grow on the top vertically must be cut.

Cherry trees

The cherry trees bear fruit on the branches of at least two years. To grow them as free-growing plants, as small trees or half-trees, you need to prune the upper branches at three or four buds, during the autumn to develop the branches like an apple tree or a pear tree open in the center. The lower branches should not be eliminated, but shortened to four leaves. In the summer the new growths will then be detached. The lower branches are generally kept at least until the fourth year because they are an important aid to strengthening the trunk. The first year is highly recommended to remove the flowers so that the plant concentrates on vegetative growth. It is also necessary, during the winter, to always intervene with pruning, that is to say eliminating dead, dry, sick branches that go inwards or cross each other.


Figs can be fanned or bushy. In general, if there is sufficient space, the second option is preferred. To obtain that shape, the first year must prune the lateral branches of a tree already 2 or 3 years old, at the end of winter, about half the length, making sure that the last bud is facing outwards. The following years will be eliminated only more badly positioned branches in February-March. If necessary, to maintain a smaller size, you can cut some old branches to the size of young ones.
However, after the first year, they need only a few interventions, if not the remontages. Naturally it will be necessary to monitor and eliminate old, ill or poorly positioned wood.


They should generally be pruned in early spring. Pruning during the period of complete vegetative rest could cause bacterial cancers and irreparably damage the tree.
The technique for obtaining a tree is similar to that used for apple trees and pear trees.
Today, however, for these plants the fan-like pruning is also widespread. To get a well-proportioned tree you have to wait at least four years. However, it is a technique that gives a lot of satisfaction in fact it helps the plants to stay healthy, not bulky and very fruitful. Furthermore the collection is facilitated.
- The first year you will have to cut the main stem of a young tree at the height of a side branch, about 60 cm from the base of the trunk. The side branches should instead be shortened leaving at most a gem. At the beginning of summer, 3 side branches must be chosen. These will be tied to the supports. The remaining branches should be removed at the height of the trunk. At the end of summer the central stem must be eliminated above the two lower lateral branches, which will remain so alone forming a Y.
- The second year the two side branches will be shortened to the height of a wood bud, remaining about 40 cm long. From these, secondary branches will depart. At the end of winter all the branches will be shortened by cutting at a wood bud that looks downwards.
- We will always proceed in this way, eliminating the growth points when they reach a maximum length of 50 cm, thus encouraging flower buds.
- Later in the spring you will have to try to increase the growth of the wood which will then bear fruit. Of course it is always important to carefully clean from damaged, weak, dead or going in undesired directions.


Proceed preferably in autumn. For the training pruning it is necessary to make a cut of the stem between 30 and 2 meters from the ground (depending on the final size we want to reach). Only 4 branches are left that must be shortened to a maximum of 30 cm from the hairline. We proceed as for the cherry, always encouraging the growth of branches towards the outside and encouraging for the first years the wood buds and then only the flower buds. When the plant has reached the age of full production it will be necessary to start the maintenance pruning eliminating the dead branches, not vigorous, sick or poorly directed.

Pruning of fruit plants: Pruning for rejuvenation and reinvigoration

You may happen to inherit or buy land on which trees have been neglected for several seasons. We must therefore intervene to give new balance to the plants and make them productive again.
In fact, a tree that has not been pruned can produce a large number of flowers, but small fruits and perhaps afflicted with diseases. Work must begin in the winter when the tree is bare from the vegetation. In this way it is possible to observe the structure well and begin to decide how to intervene.
We observe where the last prunings have been performed. In all likelihood the cutting area will be congested with the growth of many secondary branches. Action must be taken to eliminate a part of it. It is not necessary to cut more than one third per year otherwise the plant could be affected.
If we have to choose, let's start with the branches that go inwards and those that cross the others. We try to create the most orderly structure possible with branches distant from 50 cm to one meter. This type of renewal should be continued for at least 2-3 years until the plant is reordered and fully productive. If possible, it is always better to avoid cutting branches that extend horizontally because they are usually those that bear fruit.
The jets that rise vertically, as we have said, are generally not productive. If we want to make them useful branches they can be bent or tied in pairs so that they take a more horizontal direction by changing their purpose.
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