Thankfully our trees have provided fruit, even though we given them very little love, since we moved in. After attending the Fruit Tree Q&A, I realized they desperately needed a major pruning. I had no experience pruning trees or bushes, so there was no way I was going to do it myself this year! Good thing for me, there is a local company dedicated to teaching orchard maintenance. Today, Kim from Orchard Keepers spent a full day pruning all of our trees! She let me spend the first couple hours watching and learning from her. It was information overload, but I took a few notes, and hopefully I can do the next prune myself!
She showed me how to identify one-year old wood, two-year old wood, and so on. The smoother the wood, the younger it is. She was able to give me a rough guess of their age. I thought the smaller trees were young; however, looking at the wood on the trunk, she thought most of the trees were 20 -30 years old. I was shocked! Based on their age, she suggested planting a couple new trees this spring. While that sounds exciting, I’m not sure if that’ll happen since I barely know how to maintain these trees!
When pruning pomme fruit trees like apples and pears, she said it’s best to work with the current form of older trees. I should be sure to leave new shoots on big limbs to promote growth. The one year old wood stimulates growth and instead of growth, our trees need structure to allow sunlight in. Kim cut lots of one-year old wood off our trees. She said best to prune one limb at time, removing dead, diseased, disoriented, and damaged parts. Our biggest apple tree had canker (it looks kinda like a canker sore!) and woolly apple aphid. She cut off all branches that had canker. Here’s a picture of a small branch with canker and woolly apple aphid.
She said when a tree is crowded at the top, it keeps fruit from growing on the bottom. Since I want to be able to easily pick our fruit, she pruned a lot off the top because we had tons of growth up there. She recommended a three-year pruning plan for trees like ours that haven’t been pruned in a while, and by then, it should look the way we want. Kim said when making large cuts, I should leave a collar (a small piece of the branch left over); this will help it heal. If I don’t notice new growth on our trees, it means they are getting old. She said new growth also means the tree is healthy, and the same tips apply when pruning stone fruit trees like plums, peaches, and apricots. The only difference is they need more sun in the center, and said it’s important to open up the center of the tree when pruning. She suggested creating a “sun cup” for them. When she was finished, they looked dramatically different, which is exactly what I was hoping for. Check out some the before and after pictures!
Did you notice all the upward growth that was removed? I’m really excited to see what a difference this makes during harvest. Hopefully the fruit will be much easier to reach this year!