They call this the dormant season in reference to stagnant plant growth. Of course this does not apply to you, my dear hobby gardeners and fellow orchardists!
Now is the time for winter pruning. Winter pruning is complete in the Hanwell and Norwood Green Orchard Trail for this year, but some of you might have some work left to do around the house, garden or allotment?
Apples, pears, quinces, medlar, figs and mulberry all benefit from winter pruning to improve health, growth and yield, and so do many soft fruit such as autumn-fruiting raspberries, blueberries or currants, and vine. Other shrubs such as fuchsia are also immensely grateful for a haircut this time of the year.
Note, however, that stone fruit such as cherry, plums, apricots and peaches want pruning after bloom, not in winter. Rhododendron and azaleas set next years buds in late summer and are best pruned in early summer, too, right after bloom.
Fine-tuned and optimised pruning is both a science and an art, and we don’t claim to be experts. However, common sense and a sharp pair of secateurs gets you a long way, so why not go ahead? Remove dead wood. Remove broken or infected branches. Remove those rubbing each other, loosen up areas of dense growth by taking our every second or third branch. Remove unruly ones growing out of the trunk too low, especially all those emerging below the grafting joint. Remove vertical water shoots and try to provide air, light, and a sense of shape and order to fruit trees.
Prolific growers such as autumn-fruiting raspberries or vine benefit from a hard cut-back, leaving only a pair of eyes above ground (raspberries) or off the leader (vine).