Autumn pruning of fruit trees, what to watch out for

Autumn is just around the corner and with it the regular maintenance of fruit trees and shrubs. In order to ensure that your trees continue to produce a rich crop of fruit, it is a good idea to prune them annually. This can be done either in late spring or during the autumn.

Most common mistakes

If you are a newbie and don’t have much experience yet, don’t jump in headfirst and rather study everything well, as you won’t reverse the fatal intervention of a bad cut or trim. A good rule of thumb is: everything in moderation or less is more. And for pruning fruit trees, double the amount. Watch out for:

  • Too radical pruning
  • Large wounds when cutting thicker branches
  • Shortening of shoots in older trees

Why big wounds are a problem

If you cut off a branch that is too thick (especially a skeletal branch), you are shortening the life of the fruit tree. The consequences may take a few years to show up, but by making such ill-considered cuts you are unnecessarily starting its death. Therefore, stick to the golden rule that any cut should be no more than 5 cm, or in rare cases 10 cm.


Why not change the shape and size of the tree

The shape of a tree is primarily determined genetically. So it is often futile to try to change it, as how the tree will look depends on the choice of rootstock when planting. So never remove more than 1/4 of the crown volume from a fruit tree in the heat of the job. The only effect you would achieve would be new buds in the form of wolves, which is not at all desirable.

Why not cut back shoots on older trees

An older tree is one that is five years old and is already sufficiently mature and therefore does not need support in forming new flower buds. The problem is that if you shorten the shoots, the crown becomes thicker, which again is not ideal if you are trying to achieve an airy and hierarchically branched crown. Therefore, only prune at the point of branching and follow the rule of thirds, which states that the diameter of the lateral branch must be no more than 1/3 of the diameter of the trunk or parent branch.