Pruning our mature and neglected pear tree has been on the to do list for ages. Having done a bit of research, we decided now is the time.
I stumbled upon a super fact sheet created by the Ohio State University Extension programme – they allow their material to be copied given appropriate credit. And credit is indeed due! I paraphrase their suggestions here.
— A good fruit tree should not make a good shade tree!
— Prune late in the dormant season to minimize cold injury.
— Prune heavily on neglected/vigorous trees, less so on less vigorous cultivars.
— Make all heading back cuts just beyond a bud or branch.
— Make all thinning cuts just beyond the base of the branch being removed.
— Avoid pruning too close (See Figure 1.)
— Don’t prune a “shade tree” back to a fruit tree in one year. Do it over a few.
— Wound dressings are unnecessary for trees pruned in dormant season.
— Match pruning tools to the size wood being removed. Shears for twigs, loppers for branches, and a saw for larger limbs.
Figure 1. Flesh cuts heal slowly; so leave the collar.
Figure 2. Pictured from above, space scaffold branches to allow access.
Figure 3. The suggested pruning cuts.
And finally they add: backyard trees are rarely over-pruned, but inexperienced growers often procrastinate on pruning for fear of damaging trees. ‘Topping’ or shearing a fruit tree is about the worst thing that can be done, but even that may result in better fruit for a year or two. Ultimately shearing will produce a dense crown that inhibits access for sunlight, sprays, and harvest, and invites weak structure and breakage. As long as pruning cuts are made to remove, head back, or thin as the examples illustrated and discussed, no nightmares are necessary. Don’t use hedge shears. ‘Just do it.’
And with those final words of encouragement, we went for it. Here is the tree first thing in the morning:
And here is the result, a bit obscured by the trees in background.
And now to tidy up the mess we’ve made.