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HILE the principles of
pruning fruit trees have
not changed over the
years, practices in modern produc-
tion systems have.
Modern orchards have become
more about high-density supported
tree-training and growing systems.
Research has shown that pruning
has a dwarfing effect on trees and
can be used as a management tool to
control its size and shape.
It must be remembered, however,
that too much pruning can have
the same effect as too little.
Leaves are the food-manu-
facturing organs of the tree
and cutting away a live
branch, which if left,
would have borne
leaves, will reduce the output of the
"factory" and result in a reduced
Summer pruning has the greatest
pruning of fruit trees
is carried out when
trees are dormant,
between the time
when the leaves
drop in late
buds begin to
safest and best time is just before the
buds swell and the most risky time
early in the winter months.
The risk of winter injury increases
if pruning is begun too early because
pruning followed by low tempera-
tures means winter injury - not
always seen but almost sure to be
Midsummer pruning has little or
no effect on stimulating new vegeta-
But this may be the time to reduce
the height and width of the trees by
cutting back unwanted new growth.
The amount of cutback would
depend on the tree's growth, vigour
A well-grown tree with a good
crop could have new growth
reduced by one-half to two-thirds.
This will let in more direct sunlight
to colour the fruit and reduce vege-
tative growth, which in turn makes
more sugars available to the devel-
oping fruit and results in improved
flavour although fruit size may be
With all pruning, it is important
to remember to use only top-quality
tools that make clean and flush
cuts because they these cuts
heal more quickly and have
little or no effect on tree
Simple rules for pruning
• Cut-out broken, dead, or diseased
• Where two branches are closely
parallel or overhang each other,
remove the least desirable, taking
into account horizontal and vertical
• Where possible, prune on the hor-
izontal plane -- that is, leave those
laterals on the main branch-
es that grow horizontally
or nearly so, and remove
those that hang down or
• Thin all varieties to permit
• If you want to reduce the height of
tall trees, cut the leader branches
back moderately to a well-devel-
oped horizontal lateral.
• Prune the lower branches of
broad-headed or drooping varieties
to ascending laterals. Varieties that
tend to produce numerous twiggy,
lateral growth should have some of
this growth removed to prevent
Make close, clean cuts. Stubs
encourage decay and canker, form-
ing a source of injury to the parent
branch or trunk.
• Prune moderately. Very heavy
pruning is likely to upset the bal-
ance between wood growth and
fruitfulness, and should generally be
• Prune regularly. Trees that are
given some attention each spring are
more easily kept in good condition
than those pruned irregularly.
• Prune that part of the tree where
more growth is required. This is par-
ticularly important with old trees.
New growth will be stimulated only
in those parts of the tree that were
pruned. Reduce pruning to an
absolute minimum where growth is
• Do not remove a branch unless
there is a very good reason for doing
so. Leaves are the food-manufactur-
ing organs, and if the leaf area is
reduced unnecessarily, the tree will
be reduced in growth or fruitfulness
• Acknowledgement: DPI fact sheets
Safest time just before buds swell
Winter months most risky
Use only top-quality tools
with DAVID EAST
Excessive pruning bears few fruit
Eclipse Enterprises director Leon
Atsalis with a lopper pruning
tool. The company is the
biggest supplier of pruning
equipment in SA.
George Atsalis, a sales consultant at
Eclipse, is rigged-up with an
electronic pack and secateurs.
FOR the best possible pruning results, top-quality
tools are a must.
Properly cared for, they will last for many years
and do a far better job than cheaper varieties.
The first rule of pruning with a hand tool is to
never tackle a branch that is too big because it
will damage the tool and the tree.
If the job is too big for a hand tool and a power
tool is required, it's probably not a pruning job,
but rather solved by retraining or reshaping.
Hand shears or secateurs are generally suited
for most pruning jobs and they should be carefully
chosen: do not skimp on price.
Broadly speaking, there are two styles of hand
shears -- the scissor-and-hook and blade (anvil)
types with scissor shears considered by most pro-
fessionals as the best.
Depending on the amount of pruning to be car-
ried out, pneumatic and battery-powered are
These units are generally of the scissor-and-
hook design and, of course, more expensive.
Lopper long-handled pruning shears require two
hands to bring additional leverage to bear for cut-
ting branches up to 75 millimetres in diameter.
Pole pruners are handy for high work and are
generally recommended for cutting dead wood of
more than 25mm.
For branches greater than 25mm in diameter, a
pruning saw (not a carpenter's saw) is recom-
It is very important to maintain pruning tools in
top working condition with regular sharpening
The most important features of a good cutting
• Cutting performance: ability to keep its edges
and cut cleanly with minimal sharpening.
• Ergonomics: lightweight and well balanced to
minimise stain on the users hand, wrist, muscles
• Durability and maintainability: best quality tools
last longer and are generally backed by a full
range of replacement parts such as cutting blades
-- DAVID EAST.
Hand shears or secateurs are generally suited for
most pruning jobs and they should be carefully
chosen: do not skimp on price.
FRUIT trees are traditionally pruned in the win-
ter months when they are dormant, but
research has shown some trees can also bene-
fit from a second light clip early in summer just
as the fruit is developing.
Certain trees put on a lot of new shoots in
the spring and summer months, causing man-
agement problems at harvest and affecting
Summer pruning is relatively simple.
Cut the shoots off at the base where they
emerge from the older, established branches
but make sure they do not have any fruit buds
The warmer and drier summer weather also
promotes faster healing of the pruning cuts
and reduces the chances of fungal or bacterial
Summer pruning increases airflow around
the fruit and lets-in more direct sunlight to the
centre of the tree.
It encourages trees to set more flowers and
fruit buds, allows fruit to be picked more effi-
ciently and makes it easier to put netting over
the trees to protect ripening fruit from bird
Invest wisely in good shears, secateurs for a clean cut
Second light clip early in
summer proved to work
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