At this moment the harvest of summer vegetables is in full swing and I am running out of ideas of things to do with courgettes and runner beans! August is always a time when attention turns to fruit in the garden. There is a sense of expectation as early apples such as ‘Fiesta’ ripen and plums and damsons begin to show colour.
Summer pruning of apples and pears allows sunlight to ripen the fruit and ensures good cropping in subsequent years. This is the main method of pruning for restricted forms such as cordons, espaliers, fans and pyramids but can also be done on free standing trees.
It is mainly a practise used on spur bearing apples and pears and when used in conjunction with winter pruning helps manage the growth and maintains the productivity of a tree.
Pruning can be done any time from July to September but the timing can often depend on where you are in the country. Pears can be done from mid July onwards and apples in late August. Doing it at this time minimises the possibility of re growth from the cut shoot.
Choose new shoots which will have a woody base but a flexible top and will usually have the darkest leaves on top and a cluster of leaves at the base.
When making a cut always use a sharp clean pair of secateurs and cut back to one or two buds above the previous years growth. Having already been pruned this older growth will have formed a small knobbly side shoot which is the spur on which the fruit will hang. If secondary growth occurs after summer pruning, then this should be removed in September. If this persists, leave some longer shoots unpruned as these will draw up the sap and grow at the expense of the secondary growth elsewhere. Cut these back to one bud in spring, as well as any vigorous growth projecting above the level of the supporting wire framework.
Summer pruning is not just restricted to apples and pears. Wisteria benefit from some attention at this time of year especially young plants. Whether trained on a wall, trellis, pergola or arbour Wisteria can become a mass of whippy growth. So sharpen the secateurs and take out the ladder. The best rule of thumb is to prune back to a hands breadth (six inches) now and in winter take those same shoots back to two fingers (not a rude gesture but approximately one inch) which puts the plants energy into producing flower bearing shoots for next year.