Tales from the Walled Garden

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How to prune fruit trees in the summer

The last week of August is the time we start the summer pruning espalier fruit trees.

At Houghton Lodge Gardens, there are over 32 varieties of apples and the trees form the central avenue through the Walled Garden. The espalier pear trees grow very happily against the chalk cob walls and on the east wall of the garden, there is an especially notable espalier pear – Uvedale St. Germain, which has a span of over fifty feet.

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Why prune fruit trees in the summer?

Pruning the trees at the end of August ensures that the long new growth, which has grown over the spring and early summer following the winter pruning, can be turned into fruiting stems the following year.

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How to summer prune fruit trees

The convention is that ESPALIER formed trees are pruned in the late summer after the new growth starts to harden. They can be pruned back to about three leaves above the basal leaf cluster (those leaves at the start of the new stem) which will then encourage the tree to form fruiting spurs on which the new apples will form next year. The pruning also allows more light and air into the trees and especially the fruit, which assists them to ripen.

The trees can also be pruned over the winter to remove any dead / diseased stems and any that are misplaced, but any form of pruning has its consequences as we see from the strong new growth that has formed following our winter prune.

If you would like to know more about the apple varieties and get advice on growing apple trees, visit Houghton Lodge Gardens on the 25th September for an Apple Day. Read here for more details.

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