Gardening: Prune now for more fruit

I DEALT with rose pruning in last week's column and it is surely cold enough now to begin if you live in a frost-free area - keep in mind though, that there is also the serious winter pruning to be done - that is the deciduous fruit trees.

With the exception of apricots, plums and cherries, which are best pruned after their summer harvest, most fruit bearing deciduous trees can be pruned now to encourage large, quality fruit.

Discounting mulberries (which fruit quite young), it is usually three or four years before young fruit trees bear a crop.

A new tree has generally been root pruned, while its top hasn't.

If possible cut the top three or four branches back to an outside bud so that the tops are level.

If the tree is unbranched, prune it back to a good bud approximately a metre above the ground and select the leading branches the following year.

When doing the second year pruning cut back the leaders to selected outward-growing side branches that should grow out horizontally rather than vertically.

Reduce the number of side branches to keep an open framework and shorten the leaders to control the size of the tree.

This may sound complex but as you are actually pruning it will fall into place.

Pears and apples fruit on second year or older wood so leave sufficient length to develop fruit spurs. Pears take five years to bear.

Nectarines and peaches bear fruit on laterals produced the previous summer, fruiting for one season only, so new laterals need to be continuing to produce fruit.

After pruning feed with a complete fertiliser such as Martins Organic Advance Plus which contains sulphate of potash as well as blood and bone.

Spray stone fruits with copper oxychloride late in July and then early in August to prevent leaf curl.

Climbers and ornamental grape vines that have lost their leaves should be pruned during July.

Really vigorous plants need to be pruned hard to improve new growth in spring.

You'll notice that deciduous vines that are left unpruned from year to year produce smaller and smaller leaves as the stem becomes thinner.