Pruning is necessary for fruit trees to maintain their vitality. An optimal cut is only possible with very sharp tools!
The aim of pruning fruit trees is to provide the crown with sufficient light and air. Not all branches fit into the growth pattern and they have to be removed. This also applies to shoots that grow from the outside inwards towards the trunk. The tree needs a healthy ratio of flower-bearing shoots and pure leaf shoots.
Water shoots sprout at the highest points of the branches. Except for a few that will help shape the tree crown at a later date, most of the water shoots are cut back. On the other hand, you should encourage the fruit shoots that are growing straight up and ideally still have good growth. All other water shoots are cut off close to the branch.
These branches and shoots must be removed
As a rule, shoots that reach upwards at an angle of more than 45 degrees do not bear flowers and are therefore candidates for pruning.
To prevent fungal infestation, you should also be sure to remove any ingrown fruit from the previous season. Mummified fruit can act as a source of monilia rot infection for new fruits in the coming season and must also be removed.
Pruning shears or pruning saw?
Whether you use shears or a saw is up to you. The only important thing is that your tools are sharp. Only smooth and clean cut surfaces heal quickly. With blunt tools it is much more difficult and resource-intensive for the tree to close the cut.
What types of pruning shears are there?
There are basically two different types of pruning shears:
- Bypass shears
- Anvil shears
While the two cutting blades of the bypass shears slide past each other, with the anvil shears, one cutting blade is pressed onto the wide anvil body.
|Bypass shears||Anvil shears|
|Advantages:||Precise, smooth cut||Good force transmission|
|Suitable for:||Pruning green wood||Pruning dead wood|
|Disadvantages:||Higher effort |
Limited branch thickness
|Cuttings are crushed |
Bark injuries possible
The blades of small anvil shears are usually straight - this makes the anvil more solid.
Furthermore, a distinction is made between (one-handed) shears and (two-handed) loppers.
|One-hand garden shears||Loppers|
|Advantages:||Light weight |
Can be used in tight spaces
|Good force transmission |
Extended working radius
|Suitable for:||Shoots up to max. Ø 15-20 mm||Branches up to max. Ø 45-50 mm|
|Disadvantages:||Poor force transmission||Quite bulky|
Large two-hand loppers with an anvil often have a curved blade shape with a correspondingly shaped anvil.
Thinning shears are a special form of bypass shears. They have a straight, slim blade shape - but only allow a small cutting diameter. They are therefore not ideal for pruning trees.
Up high with telescopic shears
Due to their design, two-hand lopping shears already have an extended working radius compared to one-hand garden shears. Some models have telescopic handles that allow you to extend the handle length even further. With telescopic shears you can reach even higher into the tree. This is especially important if you feel uncomfortable on ladders and prefer solid ground under your feet.
Telescopic shears allow you to make cuts at heights of up to four metres. Models such as the Barnel Ultra Reach also have cut-and-hold shears so you do not have to worry about the cut branches falling off. If you want to cut even higher branches, caterpillar shears from Silky or Barnel with their tackle system allow you to make cuts at heights of up to six metres! Thanks to the ingenious mechanism, they can be used to cut branches up to 50 mm thick.
Up to heights of six metres – a tackle system with caterpillar shears allows cuts at great heights in combination with the Silky telescopic saw
Tree pruning with pruning saws
For thicker branches, a pruning saw does a good job. If the branch thickness exceeds 30-35 mm, a pruning saw is the tool of choice. Smaller shoots can also be removed with a sharp saw. Theoretically, there is no limit to the thickness of the branches to be sawn. For ergonomic reasons, however, you should make sure that the saw blade is at least twice the length of the branch diameter.
It is advisable to shorten thicker branches in several stages. In this way, you reduce the weight that rests on the base of the branch. To prevent the bark from tearing uncontrollably, a small cut is made from below, then the final cut is made from above. Finally, the branch is cut at the collar. »Cutting at the branch collar« means that you should not cut the branch flush with the trunk but leave the branch collar intact, as the tissue there is particularly active. However, you should never leave a stub on the trunk, as this hinders or even prevents wound overgrowth and results in considerably more water shoots.
Relieve the actual cut by shortening stronger branches in several stages.
Tips for choosing the right saw
Straight or curved pruning saw?
You will come across both straight and curved saws. For cuts up to shoulder height, straight saws have proved their worth. They are the tool of choice for hedges, bushes or young trees. However, as soon as you have to work overhead, curved saw blades have an advantage.
|Straight saw blades||Curved saw blades|
|Advantages:||Long stroke||Good guidance in the kerf|
|Ideal for:||Horizontal cuts near the body||Vertical cuts above shoulder height|
Fixed or folding saw blades?
Basically, the quality of the saw blades is equal - and so is the quality of the cuts. The wood fibres are separated by razor-sharp crosscut teeth sharpened in an alternating pattern - leaving the surface very clean.
Fixed saws are always ready-to-use, usually have an ergonomic handle shape (pistol grip) and are designed for one-handed use.
Folding saws, on the other hand, are easy to stow away during transport - and the risk of injury is also minimised when folded. Larger folding saws with longer saw blades are not only suitable for cutting strong branches - if the handle is long enough, it can be grasped with both hands and can also be used for felling logs.
How high can I saw with a telescopic saw?
Telescopic shears are much more complicated mechanically to produce than telescopic saws. Thus, the latter also have a longer reach than telescopic shears. The Barnel® Telescopic Saw 720, for example, is suitable for sawing up to a height of 7.20 m. This reach can also be advantageous when pruning smaller fruit trees, e.g. if you want to optimise a smaller tree standing on a slope.
How to promote wound healing when pruning fruit trees?
Cutting a branch off a tree creates a relatively big wound on the trunk. The tree tries to close this wound with special wound tissue. The larger the wound, the rougher the cut surface and the younger the tree, the longer this overgrowth process takes. In the case of very large wounds, it can take years. During this time, the part of the cut surface that is not yet overgrown is not protected against fungi and pests that destroy wood. Fruit trees are particularly delicate.
- 1. Use the right saw. The larger the setting (alternate bending of the teeth to the right and left) of a saw, the larger the ridges and scratches on the cut surface. This results in a greater exposed surface and water can accumulate between the ridges, which may later cause rotting. Consequently, saws with very slightly set or unset teeth are ideal for pruning fruit trees.
- 2. The branch should be cut at the collar. »Cutting at the branch collar« means that you should not cut the branch flush with the trunk but leave the branch collar intact, as the tissue there is particularly active. However, you should never leave a stub on the trunk, as this hinders or even prevents wound overgrowth.
- 3. In particular, dormant pruning in winter makes it more difficult for the tree to close the cut surfaces with wound tissue. Applying special wound sealants such as tree waxes or tars to cut surfaces is recommended.