Tag Archives: Pruning apple trees

A short lesson in hooping, no less

Hooping the long whips on the apple trees

Hooping the long whips on the apple trees

Many woody plants concentrate their hormones at the tips of branches. If you bend the branch closer to the horizontal, then the hormones which lead to flowering are more evenly dispersed along the length which encourages the growth buds lower down to flower and grow.

Our Friend of the Garden, Colin, braved the snow and frost this week to come and stay and he has pruned the apple trees. He has hooped over some of the long whips to encourage the plant to push out growth buds along the length, which should result in the production of stronger fruiting spurs to replace old, spent spurs.

Hooping roses which put out long growths increases the flowering markedly. It is a technique I first saw done at Ayrlies Garden (back in the days when Neil Ross was head gardener there). It takes up a lot of space but is worth the effort. I tie the long whips down to wire hoops in the garden. Many of the David Austin roses put out long whips which are ideal for hooping.

Hooping the roses to maximise flowering this season

Hooping the roses to maximise flowering this season


Using a simple wire hoop to tie down the long rose whips

Using a simple wire hoop to tie down the long rose whips

It is of course the same principle as using espalier techniques to increase cropping. Espalier is not just a space saving exercise in keeping plants as close to flat as possible. It can also maximise fruit yields in a restricted space. You need to make sure that ties are flexible so they don’t cut in and damage the branches – stockinette or similar. The apple hoops were secured with a tapener or tying machine which staples a small piece of flexible plastic tape in place.

Postscript: A man on a mission, Colin is now hooping the raspberries. This is a particularly strong growing variety and this hooping is in part to keep the growth under control and to prevent them making an escape out the top of the raspberry cage. It should also make picking easier.

Any woody plants which make long, whippy growths can be hooped to maximise flowering and fruiting. Colin, a retired horticulturist of vast experience, assures me that when it comes to fruiting plants, the redistribution of the plant’s hormones achieved through hooping encourages leaf buds to form flower buds as well which increases potential fruit yield.

A man on a mission, Colin is now hooping the raspberries

A man on a mission, Colin is now hooping the raspberries

Winter pruning apple trees: step-by-step guide Abbie Jury and Colin Spicer

Apple trees benefit from a little attention in winter and in summer – easy care summer strategies for apples.

1) This dwarf apple tree has not has not had any attention other than a light haircut in winter and again in summer for many years. It is congested and overgrown and while it still fruits, the quality of the crop will improve in better conditions.

2) Select the branches which will give the tree its framework. Keep the main leader in the centre of the plant and choose branches which are well spaced to allow for air movement and maximum light. Remove all surplus growth not needed for this framework, including branches which cross each other. We are pruning for a tree which is more or less an espalier shape – two dimensional with height and width but little depth because it grows in a narrow border beside our driveway.

3) Now that the basic shape of the tree has been restored, thin out the clusters of fruiting spurs. Apples will continue to set fruit on old spurs for several years, but best results will be on growths from one to three years old. Where a spur is cut off, the plant will usually push out a fresh growth in spring.

4) This shoot shows two years of growth. The lower half was new growth made in spring two years ago and the upper half is growth from last spring. You can see the fruiting spurs forming on the 2008 growth. These will flower and set fruit this year. If you make the mistake of always pruning by trimming off the long whippy new growths, you are cutting off all the fresh fruiting spurs. Try to get a mix of fresh spurs and already established spurs so that you are encouraging gradual replacement.

5) Sealing the cuts is optional but strongly recommended by our visiting pruning expert. He applies Bacseal which is an antibacterial sealant. Avoid getting this on your hands and always wait until you have finished all the pruning to avoid brushing wet surfaces with your skin or clothing.

6) A spray of lime sulphur will clean up the heavy lichen infestation. Follow up with a copper spray at winter strength in three weeks time to get the tree into a much healthier state. Follow the instructions on the containers for dilution rates for both sprays.