Secateurs at the ready? Organic gardening expert NAOMI FORD tells elderjuice where we should deploy them in autumn.
The best time to prune apple and pear trees, together with some of the soft fruit canes and bushes, is after the sap has stopped rising in autumn.
With all pruning make sure you have sharp secateurs or pruning knife in order to ensure a clean cut is made. Always cut the stem at a slight angle to allow any water to drip off.
If you have not yet cut back your summer fruiting raspberries then now is the time to do so. Cut back the canes that have fruited and keep the healthiest looking of the remaining canes and tie them to their wires. They will need to be cut back again in February.
For blackberries, loganberries and tayberries, autumn is the time to cut back the old fruiting stems – again the new growth is tied onto the training wires. Pull out any new growth that is too far away from the wires and plant it along another row.
Blackcurrants should be left until November to prune but plants under three years old should not be touched. Cut out any dead wood and if any branches are rubbing against each other then cut out the weaker of these branches.
Some people cut out any branches that are over four years old but unless your bush is getting rather sparse then, personally, I wouldn’t worry about this.
Gooseberry bushes are the fiddliest of the soft fruits to prune and these too should be left until November to do. Cut back any new growth by about a half. Then if there are any side shoots coming from the new growth that is left, cut these back by about half too. Finally if there is any dead wood or branches that are rubbing each other these must come out.
Apples and pears
With apple and pear trees there is an old gardeners’ saying that a tree is only properly pruned when there is enough space between the branches to throw a hat.
All apple and pear trees, but not espaliers and fans, etc, should be pruned when the leaves have fallen and the sap stopped rising. Pruning of two and three year old trees is normally left until December.
For the older, established trees, cut back any dead or diseased wood and also take out any branches that have begun to rub together. Any branches that are encroaching into the centre of the tree should be removed. Take back any branches that are too high to their healthiest branch.
With the tip bearing varieties, if the new growth is over about a foot long then cut it back to the first healthy bud, otherwise leave it alone unless it is causing an overcrowding problem. With spur bearing trees, reduce these new growths by about a third, again removing any that are causing overcrowding.
Mulberries and quinces
Both of these should only be pruned if absolutely necessary in late autumn. Only dead and diseased wood should be removed along with any branches that are rubbing together.