Heading A Young Tree



Heading or topping a bare-root fruit tree in its first winter helps it to establish more successfully in its new home.  It also encourages side branches to form at the correct height when the tree starts growing again in the Spring.  If you planted a one or two year old bare-rooted tree in the autumn and didn’t carry out any pruning at the time of planting, (and the nursery didn’t either) now is the time to do this initial pruning while the tree is still dormant. Continue reading

The Value Of Hedgerows


When you think about orchards, it is easy to focus solely on the trees. But, orchards are much more than a collection of fruit trees.  A traditional orchard is a mosaic of different habitats, the grasses, herbs and vegetation on the ground – known as the sward – scrub, and hedgerows.  Each plays a vital role in the life of the orchard –  both for its custodian and the wildlife it supports.

Hedgerows are the traditional boundary for orchards. They perform a number of functions. As well as determining its limits, once established, hedgerows can provide an extra source of fruit [crab apples, plums, damsons and cherries are often planted in them]. They prevent livestock from escaping and create natural windbreaks.  Continue reading

Identifying Fruit Buds And Growth Buds


Fruit bud surrounded by a cluster of leaves

Pruning apple and pear trees can be a daunting prospect for the novice.  For a start, not all cultivars produce and carry fruit in the same place on the branch.  Depending on the variety some bear fruit on the tips, others on spurs.  It isn’t necessary to have a detailed knowledge of the physiology of a fruit tree, but a few basic principles are useful. Understanding which buds will bear fruit and which will form leaves is a good first step. Continue reading

Why Stake A Fruit Tree?


Damage caused by a tie that is too tight

June is the perfect time to take a stroll around the orchard and do a bit of light maintenance while enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of early summer. Take a few minutes to check whether the stakes supporting the trees are still doing their job and loosen off any ties that are too tight.

Most fruit trees only need temporary staking for two or three years at most. The exception is trees grown on dwarf rootstock, such as M27 or M9, which have very poor anchorage and will need to be supported for their entire life. As a rule of thumb, the more vigorous the rootstock, the shorter time the tree will need staking.

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Hot Under The Collar

Orchard Origins was back at Houghton farm this week to finish pruning some two year old apple trees. While we were there,  the farmer was keen to get our thoughts on his attempts at pruning a small orchard at the entrance to the farm.


Mixed orchard after pruning

The orchard, a mixture of apple, pear, plum, cherry and greengage, had not been pruned for a number of years and most of the trees had become severely overcrowded. Pruning had successfully opened up the centre of the trees which will improve air circulation and allow in more light.

But, there were also some useful learning points that we thought would be helpful to share on the blog.

  • Stone fruit trees, such as cherry, plum and greengage, should only be pruned in the summer to avoid silver leaf disease.
  • Restrict branch removal to one third of the total canopy in young vigorous trees;  a quarter in old trees
  • When cutting a large branch back to another branch [rather than the trunk] ensure that branch is at least one third the thickness of the branch you are cutting.  We will blog more on this.
  • Always cut branches at the branch collar.

So what and where is the branch collar? Continue reading

Pruning Young Trees

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Planting a cider apple and perry pear orchard at Houghton Feb 2013

Orchard Origins went back to the Houghton Project this week to prune the apple and pear trees we planted a year ago. Pruning a tree in its early years – known as formative pruning – helps it to develop a strong, basic branch structure.  As discussed in a previous post Winter or Summer Pruning, formative pruning is best done in the winter when the tree is still dormant.

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Winter Or Summer Pruning?


Winter is the traditional time of year to prune apple and pear trees. The reasons for this are partly historical. January and February were quieter months in the agricultural calendar when farm labourers were available to work in the orchards.

In fact, pruning can be done in summer and winter.

As a  general rule winter pruning promotes vegetative growth; summer pruning slows growth and encourages fruit production.

Continue reading