Pruning Bush and Cane Fruits


Gooseberries, red currants and white currants are pruned in just the same way; so, what is recommended for gooseberries, applies equally well to all fruit best grown on spurs.

The bushes are grown on a short leg, or trunk, and any shoots that appear from below the bottom branches at any time should be removed.

After planting, young bushes should have all new shoots cut back by a third to a half to build up a good framework of semi-permanent branches. When eight to twelve of these half-grown branches exist, you can start pruning for fruit. This is done by shortening back all new side shoots to 1in (2.5cm) in the early winter. Thus, a fruitful spur system is created. The branch leaders are cut back by half so that extension growth can continue.

If time permits, summer pruning can take place in late June with the new shoots being stopped at about 4in (10cm) long. Winter pruning follows as usual.

Black currants fruit best on young wood so the bush consists of a stool with many of the shoots coming from below ground. After planting, all shoots should be cut down to within 2-3in (5-7.5cm) of the ground to promote vigorous and healthy growth in the following season. Little cutting back is required beyond shaping and keeping the bushes open and uncluttered.

With established bushes, once they reach four to five years old, any branches that have fruited for four seasons are best cut right out to encourage younger branches to replace them. If it seems that the bushes are getting crowded, whole shoots or even branches should be cut out rather than snipping away genteelly with secateurs. This is where loppers come in handy!

'Lancashire Lad' gooseberriesWhen one comes to prune cane fruits, it is time that is required rather than knowledge.

Summer fruiting raspberries produce canes one year which fruit in the following July/August. Immediately after fruiting, these canes are cut down to the ground.

Autumn fruiting raspberries are entirely different in that the canes grow and fruit in a single year. The fruited canes are left until the following March when all are cut to the ground.

Blackberries, loganberries, tayberries etc. grow in exactly the same way as summer raspberries, so the fruited canes need to be cut right down after fruiting. Occasionally, a blackberry plant only produces one new cane from the stool during the summer. When this happens, it is permissible to shorten a fruited cane back to a strong new shoot near its base rather than remove it entirely.


Restoration Work

One of the most disheartening things for any newcomer to gardening is to come face to face with an apparently centuries-old apple tree in their very first garden. It inspires a feeling of complete inadequacy and hopelessness.

However, as long as the problem is faced logically and in the proper sequence, there is no reason why the tree shouldn’t be restored to full vigour. That is, provided that it is worth it.

Although large fruit trees are possibly the most awesome to tackle, the problem is not restricted to these and the first thing to decide is whether or not the ‘subject’ is really worth saving; bush and cane fruits seldom are. Very often, even a tree is just not worth the time and trouble. A new one can usually be bought inexpensively and will be cropping long before the old one has even recovered from the treatment. This has to be considered along with the question, ‘do we want the thing anyway; good or bad? It may be taking up too much room or the variety could be poor.

Assuming, though, that you decide to keep a particular tree, the first task is to tackle it during the winter with a view to knocking it into shape. It is much easier to see what is happening if it is leafless. If the tree is old, the first thing to do is to get it growing again.

Renovation is not the sort of work to undertake with a pair of secateurs; it is something that has to be done in a business-like way with a proper pruning saw so that the problem is cured in one fell swoop. Never be frightened of taking out quite large branches; as long as they are the right ones, no harm will be done and the tree will be all the better for it.

pruning red currant bushes


First, then, get rid of any dead, diseased, dying or clearly out of place branches. This last category will include branches that are too high, too low or which spread out too far. What remains should be worth saving but, normally, there will still be far too many, so thinning out is called for. If it looks as though a lot of branches will have to go, it is often worth taking two winters over it. If it is all done at once, you can get such a lot of new growth that you are in just as bad a mess as before.

With the obvious branches removed, the next job is to thin out the remainder. This stage is usually better planned from the ground; it can be difficult to get an overall view when perched on top of a ladder. Better still, have one person on the ground directing operations and the other up the ladder carrying them out, normally with a saw.

The branches to remove first, if not already done so, should be any that are shooting up into the sky or trailing on the ground. There is very little point in keeping branches that are going to be a perpetual nuisance or which you will never be able to pick or prune. Then see if you can spot any key branches that are causing overcrowding; these must come out as well.

With younger trees that have simply become overgrown through recent lack of attention, the job will be a lot easier as the problem will be one of size rather than lack of fruit.

A good idea is to use a draw-hoe to scrape off much of the old and scaly bark that has built up on the trunk and main branches. You would be astonished at how many pests will be nicely tucked up for the winter under the bark scales.

You will probably have to spray several times during the following summer. You are unlikely to solve all the pest and disease problems in the first year, but persevere. The diseases scab and mildew are likely to be particularly bad on apple and pear trees, but you should never be surprised to see them return year after year; they do this even in the best commercial orchards.

Neglected trees are also going to need regular annual feeding. Although growth has to be encouraged, it should not be overdone, so a well balanced fertiliser, such as ‘Grow-more’, should be applied each February. This has equal parts (7 per cent) of nitrogen, phosphates and potash, so all the tree’s natural functions are encouraged to get cracking again. Nitrogen is for growth and strong leaves and shoots. Phosphates encourage new roots to develop and potash leads to more and stronger fruit buds.

These jobs taken together, and given a couple of years or so, will restore the most uninspiring tree to fruitfulness and its former good looks.


14. May 2011 by admin
Categories: Fruit Gardening, Fruit Trees, Pruning | Tags: , | Comments Off on Pruning Bush and Cane Fruits


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