February 11, 2013
Pruning the Apple and Pear Trees at the Farm
If you grow apple or pear trees, you most likely understand the importance of annual training and pruning. Without training and pruning, these fruit trees will not develop a proper shape and form. And, when trained and pruned correctly, the trees have a much better chance of producing a higher yield of fruit and also live longer lives. Once an apple or pear tree is planted, this training and pruning will help to develop a strong tree framework to support the fruit it bears. When pruning does not take place, these fruit trees grow tall, upright branches that can break when the fruit forms. Pruning also opens up the tree canopy, allowing more sunlight to reach the fruit. If you follow this blog regularly, you probably know that I have many apple trees and a small grove of pear trees. The time to train and prune is now, in late winter, when the trees are still dormant. SavATree, my arborists, do a fine job each year. Danny Broglino, a tree care foreman and specialist, has been caring for these trees ever since I bought the property. He recently Googled “Martha Stewart’s apple trees” and was amazed by how many images of my trees there are on the Internet. But hey - it’s no secret that I love trees and that I photograph them regularly.
1 The vigorous, upward-growing branches on these apple trees is all last year's new growth, which needs to be removed.
2 These trees are approximately 50-years old and Danny Broglino, from SavATree, has been pruning them ever since I bought the farm.
3 Danny is a 27-year veteran of SavATree, having been hired right out of college with a degree in forestry. He is also a certified arborist and a pruning expert.
4 In the springtime, apple trees flower and produce fruit on long-lived, stubby twigs called spurs, often referred to as old wood.
5 When pruning apple trees, there are a couple of goals. On young trees, pruning encourages a strong, solid framework.
6 On mature trees, like these, pruning maintains a desirable shape and encourages fruit production.
7 Dan and his team come each winter to prune. The best time to prune apple trees is in late winter or very early spring before any new growth starts.
8 One by one, those upright shoots are removed using sharp hand clippers.
9 The new growth should be pruned fairly flush to the branch from which it grew.
10 The idea is to leave slight stubs. By removing any more, the remaining branch has too much of an opening for disease to enter.
11 Larger shoots can be cut with a small handsaw.
12 You also want to remove rubbing or criss-crossing branches.
13 This apple tree had several low-hanging branches, which made lawn mowing difficult, and Chhewang, from my farm crew asked Danny if he could raise them up a bit.
14 For larger branch pruning, Danny uses a small chainsaw.
15 Chhewang shows potential in being a good pruner, so I asked him to have Danny show him the basics.
16 Danny explained to Chhewang that you can actually remove 1/3 of the growth from a healthy tree.
17 You want to favor spur branches where the apple tree flowers and sets fruit. Pruning encourages the tree to grow more of these fruiting spurs by removing competing suckers and unproductive wood.
18 Danny and his team moved to the pear grove. Pear trees have a tendency of growing more upright than apple trees.
19 A pole trimmer was used to reach the new growth at the top of the tree.
20 Danny pointed to a fruiting bud, the interior of which contains the future blossom. Branches with this type of growth are kept on the tree.
21 Rather than fruiting buds, last year's growth has only leaf buds. This growth is removed so that the tree can send its energy to the fruiting buds.
22 Again, using hand pruners.
23 Danny removed that upright growth fairly flush with just small stubs.
24 He continued by removing crossing branches and by thinning out new growth from the upper branches.