Gardening: Get pruning to ensure a good apple and pears crop

If you have an apple or pear tree, now's the time to winter prune it to ensure a good crop of fruit in autumn. Unpruned trees become less productive and congested with old branches.

Keep your apple and pear trees productive with winter pruning.
Keep your apple and pear trees productive with winter pruning.

Winter pruning is for apples and pears grown as bush or standard trees carried out when the tree is dormant.

Start with clean loppers, secateurs and a pruning saw.


If you do nothing else, remove dead, diseased, weak or crossing branches.

The aim is to create an open goblet shape with a framework of about five main branches.

You don’t want to cut off the branches that bear fruit, so find out whether the tree is a spur-bearer, a tip-bearer or a partial tip-bearer.

Spur-bearers produce fruit buds on two-year-old wood, on short, branched shoots.

Make sure your pruning tools are clean to prevent disease.

They are the largest group and include Cox’s Orange Pippin, Sunset, James Grieve, Greensleeves and most pears.

Tip-bearers produce very few spurs and can be relatively uncommon.

Finally, partial tip-bearers produce fruit on the tips of the previous year’s shoots and also on some spurs.

Cultivars include Bramley’s Seedling, Discovery and Worcester Pearmain.


On spur-bearers, shorten the previous year’s growth on each main branch by about one third to a bud facing in the required direction to encourage the development of new spurs.

Cut back any young laterals (side shoots) growing from the main framework to five or six buds.

On tip-bearing varieties, prune the previous year’s growth on each main branch and the most vigorous laterals (side shoots) to the first strong bud.

Leave unpruned laterals less than 30cm (1ft) long.

Make sure your pruning tools are clean to prevent disease.

For partial-tip bearers, cut back some of the older fruited branches to a strong young shoot closer to the to the main trunk to reduce congestion.


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Clear alpine beds of debris and cover bare patches with gritty compost. Remove weeds before mulching in spring.

Clear borders of wind-blown debris and dig out any leftover annuals. Look out for rotting on died-down perennials.

Keep containers tidy, cutting back and removing dead leaves. Mulch with grit – it looks good and reduces surface puddling after heavy rain.

Watch out for downy mildew and black spot on winter pansies. Remove infected leaves and destroy badly affected plants.

Prune Wisteria – cut back side shoots shortened by summer pruning to two or three buds. Don’t cut off flower buds!

Ornamental vines, ivy, Virginia creeper and Boston ivy can be cut back now – keep them away from windows, doors, gutters and roof tiles.

Coral spot is often noticed on twigs from deciduous hedges, shrubs and trees, connected with poor ventilation and congested, twiggy growth inside clipped hedges.

Cacti need very little water, and no feeding, during winter. Keep them barely moist until spring.

If the weather is mild you can lay a new turf or repair an existing lawn. Repair lawn edges with turves cut from other areas.