How to tell the difference between fruit buds and leaf buds

This week’s pruning tip is about the difference between leaf buds and fruit buds – a very useful thing to know before you start making any cuts, to make sure you don’t accidentally remove all the fruit buds with overzealous pruning.

Terminal fruit bud and leaf buds on an apple lateral
Terminal fruit bud and leaf buds on an apple lateral

Generally speaking, fruit buds are plumper and furrier than leaf buds, which tend to be slim, flat and smooth. Peaches and nectarines are probably the easiest to see – the photo below shows some lovely fat and furry peach fruit buds.

Fat peach fruit buds about to burst into flower
Fat peach fruit buds about to burst into flower

Peaches often have a triple bud, with a skinny leaf bud in the middle flanked by two fruit buds either side, as you can clearly see in the photo below.

A triple peach bud - two flower buds separated by a leaf bud
A triple peach bud – two flower buds separated by a leaf bud

The buds look a bit different on every fruit type, so it can be harder on some trees to tell the difference.

In these photos of pears above and below, the red arrows indicate fruit buds, and the blue arrows are pointing to leaf buds.

So before you start your pruning, have a close look at the buds until you feel confident you can identify the fruit buds, make sure you don’t cut them all off, and if you need extra support download our Pruning Mature Fruit Trees short online course.

Winter pruning fruit trees

Beppe pruning plum trees in winter
Beppe pruning plum trees in winter

Have you started your winter pruning? If the leaves have fallen off your apple, pear, plum, peach or nectarine trees, now’s the time to get started. 

We talk a lot about pruning (it’s one of the main things that worries home growers), so we thought we’d share some basic pruning terminology.

Here’s how we label various parts of the tree:

A two year old plum tree that's had it's winter pruning
A two year old plum tree – still in the establishment pruning phase – that’s had it’s winter pruning

Limbs/branches, sometimes called ‘scaffold’ branches: these are the permanent, structural parts of your fruit tree. We usually recommend pruning your trees into a ‘vase’ shape, with between 6 and 10 limbs, starting from a central point about knee height above the ground.

The photo above is a young plum tree that only has 4 limbs, but has been pruned back hard to encourage more limbs down low in the tree (‘establishment’ pruning). We explain this technique, and the principles behind how a fruit tree likes to grow, in much more detail in Pruning Young Fruit Trees.

Of course your tree may have a different shape, e.g., espalier, central leader, or more of a wild and possibly completely unpruned shape (those last ones are pretty common!).

Laterals: these are shorter pieces of wood, also called small branches, side branches, shoots or twigs, that grow from the limbs. These are the main fruit-bearing parts of the tree. Strictly speaking a lateral just refers to one-year-old wood, i.e., the shoots that grew in the summer just gone, but to keep things simple we use laterals to refer to any growth coming from a limb.

Spur: this is a collection of buds, mainly fruit buds but also leaf buds, on a lateral, some of which may also turn into new shoots. The older a spur is, the less likely it is to generate new shoots.

Some fruit trees are much more prone to developing spurs than others, e.g., pears, some apples, and some plums. Apricots can also form spurs. The spurs can keep bearing fruit for years and require little pruning. If they are getting too crowded it’s OK to do some ‘spur pruning’ to thin them out a bit.

Buds – fruit trees have fruit buds (which turn into flowers), leaf buds (which turn into leaves and shoots), and multiple buds that are a combination of the two.

Fruit buds tend to be fatter and a little furrier looking, and leaf buds tend to be flatter and less significant.

Understanding which part of the tree we’re talking about makes learning how to prune much easier, so next time you’re gazing lovingly at your fruit tree, make sure you can identify all its different bits!

Tree sales are go!

The season is turning and our beautiful fruit trees are starting to lose their leaves and go dormant for the winter. Katie and Merv have been out amongst them, counting up how many trees of what variety are a good size to sell and loading the information onto the website ready for sale.

We’ve got loads of different varieties of nectarine, peach, cherry, apple, pear, plum and apricots available.

We even have the first of our unique multigrafted trees with up to 4 varieties of fruit on the one tree!! Perfect for people with limited space for growing who want to get the maximum amount of variety in their home-grown-fruit bowl!

If you want to order one of our organic bare-rooted fruit trees, go to the website here:

…and scroll to the bottom of the page to click on the type of fruit tree you’re looking for.

Orders close June 30, 2019.

We are the only certified organic fruit trees nursery in Australia (that we know of) and since it is also our first year selling our trees, we will also supplement the trees we’ve grown ourselves with wholesale trees from another nursery who also specialise in heritage varieties. When you’re ordering, the trees from our nursery have “(organic)” in the name; the trees we buy from an external nursery do not.

You’ll then be able to pick-up your trees from the farm on the weekend of July 13 and 14, between 10 am and 4 pm.

We will also have a Nursery Open Day on Sunday 21 July for a final sale of any trees that weren’t sold in the first round. 

Another big announcement is that we finally have a logo for Carr’s Organic Fruit Tree Nursery!! After much deliberation, debate and fine tweaking over co-op morning tea, we decided to go with this logo that has a hand-drawn image of Merv’s grafting knife at the top of it.

We debated whether anyone would know what a grafting knife is, and whether we should just go with some sort of generic image of a tree, like a million other businesses have. In the end we decided that the knife (even if no one knows what it is) really says more about the nursery and its history. Merv has had this knife for 65 years, since he first started studying horticulture at Burnley College as a 17 year old.

The knife has had so much use over the years that the blade has worn down to almost a sliver, but it still gets pulled out and sharpened for budding every February. It represents the knowledge of an old skill that is being passed down from Merv to Katie and me.

The clincher too is that inscribed on the butt of the blade, and still visible, are the words ‘Oil the Joints’. Poignant.