Monday, February 6, 2012

February 6, 2012

Warm weather is encouraging honey bees out already.
We acquired nursery-grown potted trees in May 2010.  Now two seasons later they are nicely branched and are set to fruit.  Tree pruning sounds like a complicated process, but it is easy with a few directions.  The goal of all tree pruning is to design a strong branch system that admits plenty of light.

Apple tree trained to central leader shape.
Trees fall into either a central leader system (one main trunk), or an open center system (bowl shaped).  A tree with a central leader has a whorl of 3 to 4 side branches every 18 inches or so up the trunk; side branches bear the fruit; in order to sustain the weight without cracking, these branches must maintain a wide angle from the main trunk; we have trained our apple trees to this system. 

The open center shape is ideal for peaches; we cut out the centers of our peach trees after their first season of growth to encourage side branches to spread outward, forming a bowl shape. 

Peach tree trained to the open center system (bowl shaped)
Shaping a tree during its summer growing cycle is the better way to mold a tree, pinching off sprouts where they are not needed, and directing sprouts into good growing positions.  Small weights such as clothes pins hung on the end of desirable branches will help pull them down when young; later, tree spacers may be needed to hold branches in position.  A tree spacer can be made from a 1x1: pound a small nail into both ends, snip off the nail head, and insert the spacer in between a branch and the main trunk.  Later, fruit will help to pull these branches down naturally, but they should never be allowed to hang lower than horizontal or fruiting will cease.  Summer pruning can also remove water sprouts (weak branches that grow straight up near the main trunk) before they steal a lot of tree energy.
Tree spacers

Winter pruning is the time to fix any tree problems; last July, as you can read, we were so busy with vegetable preservation that our trees were all but forgotten, and late-season rains encouraged some water sprouts.  There were also a few branches crowding out light, so we removed them.  Fruiting branches were headed off, by removing 1/3 of their total length, to strengthen them and to encourage new branching at the tip.  The result is nicely shaped trees, strong fruiting branches, with an open system admitting light.

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Dedicated to the responsible production and preservation of healthy home-grown food to the glory of God. Isaiah 55:10 The rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater. Organic, or not? We try to raise vegetables organically, using compost and manure. The addition of chickens to our hobby farm means plenty of organic nitrogen to compost! This site gives credible reference to planting information contained in the Farmer's Almanac (