Fruit & Vegetables - Pruning & Training
I was recently asked what the point was in pruning and training trees and shrubs, when they grow perfectly well in the wild and the weather and the seasons do the pruning?
Well, it is very true that trees get on reasonably well without too much human interference – but it doesn’t hurt to give nature a helping hand by tidying up and a little cleverness in training your trees will increase your yield of fruit (or flowers) quite dramatically.
I think the first rule of good pruning should be – if it’s looking well and healthy don’t feel you have to do anything.
Second rule is: look for signs of damage or ageing – where you have two branches that cross and rub in the wind, or a branch that has been withered by a late frost, take the secateurs, loppers, or a good pruning saw and cut off the damaged limb, cleanly and well down to an outward facing branch.
Also look for branches that will be uncomfortably close when full of fruit and remove the weaker one.
Training is interesting, because there is a simple rule, that the closer you can get your fruiting (or flowering) branch to the horizontal, the better it will fruit or flower – this is particularly true of roses. You cannot take a mature branch and force it to lie flat – it will simply break, therefore you have to start it off when it is a small branch and tie it down in the way in which you want it to grow, either using garden canes and stakes - or if you are really enthusiastic and have the space wires strung between solid wooden posts. I have seen a garden in which apples and pears were espalier trained around the outside of the wired enclosure of a tennis court – a bit beyond most of us, but it did look pretty (which is more than you can say for the average tennis court!).
There are various ways of doing this (all nice looking and productive, which is an advantage) and my picture shows a three year fruit tree trained as an espalier, although there are other styles - Cordon, Goblet, & Pyramid are the most popular.
Apples on a dwarfing rootstock can be grown as ‘Step-over Edgings’ to your vegetable beds. If this idea appeals to you, there are many websites and books, which will explain in much greater detail, the advantages of differing styles of training.