Pruning fruit trees and soft fruit bushes

The planting cut

A correct planting cut is of great importance to the future of young fruit trees. First move is to cut off any damaged roots. In addition, for one-year-old grating’s, you need only cut back the central shoot, which should be 20 cm taller than the future trunk height.

So, if you want a 60 cm tall trunk, shorten the central shoot to 80 cm. For the best results with two-years-old grating’s, take three or a maximum of four shoots and cut them back by about two-thirds to the same height. BUT NOTE: the central shoot should be a hand-breadth longer than the others.

Thinning-out cut

This important cut in the winter encourages growth, but should not be carried out below a temperature of -5 degrees. If colder, the wounds heal badly. Experts like to take out whole branches when thinning, rather than light penetrates into the crown better. This is an important prerequisite for growth and fruit formation. And it is easier to prune and harvest well thinned-out trees. The thinning-out cut gives plant protection, diseases and pests standing less of a chance. It`s best to cut systematically: Firstly, free the tree from branches which are growing into the crown. Then remove all branches which cross one another or rub and would shade parts of the crown in summer. Get rid of upright growing shoots – the so-called sun shoots. All species of fruit will stand thinning-out in winter, except cherries and peaches. These should be cut during the summer months immediately after harvesting.

Training cut

Form the second to the fifth year of its life, the young fruit should be horticulturally trained, so that a crown is formed. This consists of a central shoot and three of four leaders. Side shoots form on these and subsequently bear fruit. The leaders should be cut back by about a quarter of their length, to even height. The central shoot should be about a hand-breadth longer than the planting cut. All vertical shoots should be removed and shallow growing encouraged.

The rejuvenation cut

It`s time for a rejuvenating cut when harvest yields decrease – and this should be carried out in early winter. After a thorough thinning-out, the crown should be lowered by about a third. Cut back the tips of the trunk and the branches so that the crown forms an angle of about 120 degrees. The tree, rejuvenated in this shape, should be “trained” in the year that follows. Experienced gardeners ensure that no twig stubs or branch stumps remain. Each cutting point or wound which is larger than a 5 p. piece must be cut flush with a sharp grafting or pruning knife. It should then be coated with tree wax.

Red and white currants

Remove all weak and dense shoots during the planting cut. Each bush should show at least three to five shoots, which should be shortened by about half. After the harvest, it`s time for the fruiting cut. For this, cut off part of the old, poor-bearing shoots, to allow room for the young shoots, which should be shortened down to a half. The bush should eventually show seven to 10 shoots at not more than three years old. The same applies for bushes as for standards, for which the shoots are cut off close to the grafting point.

Black currants

A planting cut isn’t necessary. We recommend that you shorten the shoot tips only after the third year. On the whole, black currants need less pruning than other varieties and then only when they grow really thick.


The gooseberry bush should show only four to six strong shoots, which should be shortened by half after planting. All shoots which are too densely located and weak should be removed from the start. At the same time, all side shoots longer than 5 cm should be shortened. This is a simple method of controlling gooseberry mildew.


Raspberries need a radical pruning after planting of the canes – which should be about 50 cm tall. Cut back by about two-thirds of the length. Then there`s a fruiting cut straight after the harvest when all two-years-old fruited shoots should be cut off close to the ground. Only the strongest of the one-year fruits should be retained and you should reckon on about 10 to 12 new shoots per meter. 


As with raspberries, the blackberry shoots should be cut back low to about five buds after planting, then all worn out fruit shoots should be removed close to the ground. Five shoots per plant should be enough, and, since these shoots must be tipped, several side shoots should form. These should then be cut back to one bud.