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I have a plum tree that's about 8 years old. For the first time last year, it produced a bumper crop, having only given a few the previous years. Not realising it was a good idea, I never pruned it.

The problem was that the weight of the fruit was too much for some of the branches, and three of them broke. They remained attached enough for the fruit to survive, so I left them as they were.

From what I've read, now is the time for pruning, and I would like some advice as to how I should deal with this tree. Obviously, I want a healthy tree that's going to give me as much fruit as possible.

Here is an overall shot of the tree...

Plum tree

(sorry, looks like you need to tilt your head to see this picture!)

As you can see, due to my lack of pruning, the branches are quite long. Two of the branches broke close to the main stem (just in front of the green post in the middle of the picture), and they look like this...

Close-up of two of the broken branches

The other branch that broke is a bit harder to see, but is in the middle of the clump of branches that goes off to the right.

Anyone able to advise how I make the most of this tree? In case it makes any difference, I'm in North-West England.

Thanks

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  • A disclaimer for reading the answers: if last year you get a lot (really a lot) of fruits, this year you will get much less, and this it is not because of bad pruning. It is normal. In any case, before to answer your question, we need some more data: Do you have requirements on the form of the plum tree? Your tree does not grow like a tree, is it wanted? You may want an "espalier" pruning? (long but not tall?, or is a tree form ok?) Do you have problem of snow or strong winds? – Giacomo Catenazzi Mar 2 at 8:49
  • @GiacomoCatenazzi Thanks for the reply, and the warning about less fruit. As for the tree, I definitely want it, but don't have any strong feelings one way or the other as to the shape. My main interest is getting as much fruit as possible. We don't get much snow, and the tree is reasonably protected from strong winds. Hope that helps. Thanks again – Avrohom Yisroel Mar 2 at 14:07
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From your images, I have some difficulty to see good the plant, but: it seems you never pruned it, and I do not see if it is grafted or not.

  • prune all branches lower then 1 meter.

  • prune all suckers that growth from roots and soil

  • you have 4 main branches )or more) going up, from the trunk. You need only one. Start cutting two (e.g. the two broken branches), and next year you will see what will be the best branch (to become trunk).

  • I'll cut the remaining branches near the top, before they go down.

And if it was my tree, I would cut much (really much) more, but your heart/mind will probably prefer a less drastic pruning.

As I wrote in the comment, this year you will have much less fruits, this is normal, and you cannot do anything. Many fruit trees have such behaviour: one year many fruits, and one much green. By pruning, we tend to reduce fruiting, so to reduce this alternance, but now it is late, the tree is already in the status "more green". Note: in this case, it is good for you: the tree will produce much more green, so it will restore quickly.

I'm just worried that you have an other tree (on the right) which go sideways, but you wrote that you do not have strong winds, nor much snow. You may need to consider also supporting poles.

Note: plum trees are not hard tree to prune: they forgive errors (contrary to peach trees, or eventually also to apple trees which requires much more time to go back).

It is also a good time to go around and look other gardens: you may find interesting form of pruning, or have an idea on how large this tree could growth, with your climate: half of gardening is try-and-error, the rest is getting inspired and copying from others (which it is also a try-and-error).

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