Advice on pruning apple and pear trees
Winter care of apple and pear trees
From Kensal to Kilburn Fruit Harvesters
Your apple and pear trees need some winter care. Winter is the best time to prune them because that's when they're dormant. The Royal Horticultural Society website currently suggests November - March which is also annual pruning time for many shrubs.
* Be health and safety conscious: wear suitable protective clothing and have a steady ladder with an extra person to help.
* Prune on a day when no frost is present or forecast overnight.
* Sharp secateurs, loppers, and pruning saws are essential to make clean, neat cuts in the branches which will then heal well.
* Make each pruning cut slanting away from a dormant bud but close up to it, to encourage a healthy, new shoot to grow there in spring.
* Even for very neglected trees, don't remove more than a third of the growth in total each winter. Renovation is best done over three or four years
* The aim is to ultimately open up the overall structure of the tree's branches, initially pruning away dead, damaged and any very thin weak branches. Then attend to crossing/overlapping branches.
* Prune thin shoots hard back and thick shoots more lightly.
* If woolly aphid pests have infested your tree, winter is a good time to scrub off their clusters of grey 'cotton wool' with a stiff brush. You could then spray the cleaned areas with a jet of water from hosepipe or pressure washer. Applying bands of petroleum jelly low on the trunk and branches in dry weather will help to prevent more eggs being laid next spring.
Websites with more detailed tree care and pruning advice are
The Royal Horticultural Society: http://apps.rhs.org.uk/advicesearch/profile.aspx?pid=90#section3
BBC Gardener's World
http://www.gardenersworld.com/ has seasonal tips, so check in January.
Libraries and bookshops often have gardening manuals with illustrations and diagrams of fruit pruning techniques.
Thanks to Carol French of Glorious Gardens for writing this guidance