Can I pollard prune fruit trees to keep them smaller and more maintainable for my patio?
Pollard pruning, when done correctly, is a great way to keep trees manageable, and in some cases keep them living longer lives. Pollard pruning has been done in Europe for ages on street trees, and it is predominantly used to maintain a certain size and shape of tree, or to create a yearly supply of firewood. Pollarding is a technique best used on hard wood trees, and fruit trees have soft wood, so it is not a good practice to start on them.
Fruit trees bloom and fruit from fresh growth each year, but they need strong branches beneath them to hold the weight of the fully formed fruit. They also depend on good air circulation between the boughs to keep diseases and fungus away from them, so the rapid weak growth of a pollard pruning is the direct opposite of what will give you your best crop of fruit.
If you have space issues on your patio I suggest making a trellis, or using of a fence or wall to train your fruit tree into an espalier form. Espalier forms give your tree the support and structure they need to be able to produce and physically support their own food, but take up much less room than the average tree. If you’re working with a young fruit tree, start it young and gradually form it into a shape you like. The 2D espalier tree can fit almost anywhere!