Pruning: Summer pruning ‘often overlooked’ but very ‘important’ – what to cut back

Monty Don shares tips for pruning fruit trees

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Gardeners’ World said summer pruning is “often overlooked” but is just as “important” as chopping plants back when they are dormant in winter. Summer pruning has a host of different benefits including promoting future flowering and fruiting as well as helping plants to avoid outgrowing their space. 

Many fruit trees including apples and mulberries produce a crop on short-flowering shrubs along the bottom half of branches.

The experts said: “These don’t need pruning, but cutting back vigorous growth will encourage more productive growth to develop.”

Pruning when it is warm also helps to prevent disease.

Some trees are prone to silver leaf disease which can kill trees such as those in the cherry family, Prunus.

Pruning helps to avoid infection, as the fungal spores are airborne between September and May.

It is also a great time to prune out any branches that are weak, competing or crossing.

The experts added: “After a few years, the productivity of fruit bushes like blackcurrants and jostaberries will decline.

“Prune back the thickest, oldest stems at the base as soon as you’ve picked the currants, leaving a few of the younger, fruited stems and the strongest new growth to crop in the future.”

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If left unpruned, many trees can outgrow their space quite quickly.

This is especially true for fruit bushes such as gooseberries, redcurrants and whitecurrants.

Pruning back limits the size of plants and encourages more productive side shoots to form.

Gardeners’ World continued: “With the exception of autumn fruiting raspberries, cane fruits like blackberries, loganberries and summer raspberries produce new canes each year, which will go on to fruit the following summer.

“Old, fruited canes can be cut down to the ground to make space for new stems.

“Overgrown shrubs produce their flowers high up on the plant, where they can’t be seen.

“Anything that flowers from early winter to late spring, like deutzia, forsythia, kerria, philadelphus and weigela can be pruned in summer.”

Another benefit of pruning is that it helps to train shrubs.

Early training and shaping of shrubs is “crucial” for creating a strong framework of branches.

It can also help better flowering in the plant’s early years.

To prune correctly, gardeners can use a variety of different tools including secateurs, loppers and a folding pruning saw.

Gardeners’ World said these tools will enable gardeners to “tackle a wide range of jobs”.

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