GARDENING: Don’t cut too much!

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IN my haste to prune the big apple trees last year, I obviously cut too much, resulting in lots of water shoots – tall, upright, leafy branches, producing no flowers or fruit.

This will happen if you remove more than one quarter of the canopy in a year – so learn from my mistakes!

This is how to solve the problem: in the first year, remove water shoots growing directly from the trunk or from the lower parts of main branches and cut away half of those remaining from their base.

Then cut off the top 10cm (4in) of the remaining water shoots, to encourage branching. In the second year, remove half the water shoots retained in the previous year. Prune the remaining shoots to an outward-facing bud or branch.

In the third year, continue to prune to outward-facing buds or branches. Fruit buds should have started to form on the new shoots. Where this has occurred, revert to routine winter pruning.

Suckers grow from the base of the tree and just sap energy – remove these.

Mulch trees in the spring following pruning, and feed with a general fertiliser such as Growmore to encourage good regrowth.

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