When To Plant and Prune Fruit Trees

There’s something so satisfying about planting your own fruit trees. Not only are they a beautiful addition to your garden, but they‌ ‌are also great for the environment while providing you with the freshest, chemical-free fruit. Add in the fact that most standard fruit trees are reasonably easy to grow, and they seem to be a bit of a no brainer when looking to spruce up your outdoor space.

There are a variety of fruit trees to choose from based on your personal preferences. If you’re considering planting fruit trees in your garden, here at Gardeners Dream we’re running through some of the most popular choices, offering all the information you need to help your new fruit trees thrive.

When to plant fruit trees

So, first things first – planting your tree! When is the best time of the year to plant in order to get the most out of your tree and its fruits? 

When to plant your fruit tree can vary from species to species but, generally speaking, it is recommended to plant after leaf fall, in the transition from winter to spring. Planting in December through to March offers the ideal time period to allow your tree to settle and grow before spring, though your tree has the potential to do well when planted up until May. 

How to plant fruit trees

You should aim to plant your fruit tree immediately after receiving it. If this isn’t possible you should soak the roots of your tree in a bucket of water, then leave to stand away from frost for no longer than a week before planting it. 

When planting, select your area carefully. Your tree will need a good amount of sun, light and air, and will need enough room to allow for growth over the years. You should dig a hole for your tree that is at least three times the size of the roots of the tree. Hammer a stake into the hole, position your tree, then fill in the soil before securing the tree to the stake for support. This support should be left in place for at least two years while your tree is establishing. Water your tree thoroughly after you have first planted it, and ensure it is kept well watered throughout the first year as it establishes in the ground. 

When to prune fruit trees 

Pruning is vital for any tree, helping to control growth and keep it healthy through the removal of old, dead or damaged wood. Pruning will also help establish the shape of the tree and makes it easier for you to keep on top of maintenance in future years. 

When to prune fruit trees can vary from tree to tree – it all depends on what you’re hoping to achieve. For example, winter pruning will encourage growth in your tree come spring, while spring and summer pruning can discourage growth.

When to prune apple trees

If you’re looking for when to prune apple trees in the UK, you’re best off waiting until winter, before the new season’s fruit growth. The period between November through until March is ideal.

When to prune pear trees

A pear is a pome fruit, the same as an apple, so again a pear tree will best benefit from winter pruning (November-March). You can also carry out light pruning or general maintenance over the summer months if needed. 

When to prune plum trees

Plums are a Prunus species, or a stone fruit. These trees are best pruned lightly in summer, just before or after flowering. You should avoid pruning plum trees in winter, as this can open up the risk of infection from silver leaf disease in Prunus species. If you’re dealing with an especially young tree, carry out your pruning slightly earlier, in the spring and before the tree has flowered. 

When to prune cherry trees

Cherry trees, again, are a stone fruit, so the same rules apply when it comes to pruning. Opt for light pruning in the summer months, removing any dead or damaged leaves or branches in the process. 

How to prune fruit trees

For the first three years, while your tree is still young and growing, the main aim of pruning is to encourage growth and increase the scaffold strength of your tree. While your tree is new it is important to minimise the rubbing and crossing over of branches, so you will need to establish a central branch and remove any branches growing too close together or crossing over – overcrowding can limit fruit growth. The idea with initial ‌pruning is to allow airflow and maximum light to hit priority branches, in order to encourage maximum fruit growth.

After around three years your tree will have reached a level of maturity and strength. At this point, pruning will be required to remove old or dead branches, helping to maintain the shape and health of your tree.  

For pruning fruit trees, follow these top tips: 

  • Prune your trees when they are dormant (without foliage), as it will be easier to see the overall shape of your tree and where branches or buds will need removing. 
  • Look for any wood that is diseased, dead or damaged, and remove these with sharp shears. Next, look to see if any sprouts are growing from the trunk base or the main branches of your tree, and remove these. 
  • When cutting off old or dead branches, ensure you are cutting flush to the main body of the tree and not leaving small stumps behind. 
  • Once you have removed damaged or dead branches, look for any branches that are crossing over one another or growing downwards – these will affect airflow to your tree and hinder fruit production. You should aim for branches that are evenly spaced and growing from the centre of the tree in a fan-like arrangement. Keep the healthiest looking branches, and those with 2 o’clock or 10 o’clock angle from the centre of your tree, as these will be the least likely to break. 
  • Finally, you should trim back your branches in order to encourage them to grow thicker – thinner branches run the risk of snapping under the weight of the fruit. You should aim to cut back around 20 to 30 percent of last years growth, from the tip of each branch. 

If you’re looking to grow beautiful, delicious fruits at home, be sure to explore the full collection of fruit trees at Gardeners Dream.

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