Unpruned pear tree
Pruned apple tree
Now that the project of planting seedlings in the woods has been completed, the garden spring pruning is number one on the list.
We were very fortunate to move to a farm 40 some years ago with a well-established orchard of a wide variety of plums/prunes, apples, pears, cherries and nuts. Most of the old trees have survived but some have gone by the wayside.
The trouble is the size of the trees, they are massive and most of them were grafted over60 years ago. Grafts tend not to be as strong as the ancient trees and huge limbs have broken out over the years where the grafts were started. Over the years we have purchased and planted several more varieties of trees and the new trees are dwarf or semi-dwarf strains (much easier to prune). But the old trees are so delicious that we will not take any out unless they break down completely.
We still have two more trees to finish before we are finally done with this task and then I may have to start singing again…
They are called water shoots or water sprouts, those things that grow on the fruit trees that need to be cut off each year.
They have been growing all year but really add girth and length during the late fall and winter. Once they are trimmed off, the tree still in dormancy, stops trying to produce more sprouts and concentrates on growing leaves and eventually fruit on the branches that are left. Trimming out all the extra growth gives the trees room to grow larger fruit without breaking down the tree.
The big old pear tree is finally trimmed for the year. It was completed just in time because the buds are just beginning to open and then the tree will no longer be in the dormant stage.
Now it is time to clean up all the branches that were trimmed and are scattered all over the ground.
This one tree will produce more than two wheelbarrows full of limbs.
Soon we will see blossoms and leaves and this tree will look so much better while hiding the ugly shed behind it.
The springtime chore of getting all the fruit trees pruned have narrowed down to two final trees.
The old grafted trees were the hardest, they are nearing 100 years old and the grafts are not as strong as they once were.
Some of the extra weight from the sheer volume of the limbs needed to be sawed off in order to keep the trees from breaking after the foliage comes out and the fruit begins to grow.
The newer trees (under 10 years old) are not grafted and are merely kids compared to the oldsters. They are also semi-dwarf varieties and we will not need the 14 foot ladder to reach the top branches even when they are full grown.
The big, old Bartlet Pear is the current tree being pruned. This tree is the most prolific grower of water sprouts, each single one can be up to 6 feet tall and thicker than my thumb at the base.
The buds on the trees are starting to swell and now the race is on to finish the pruning before they get any further along in their springtime growth spurt.
After a nearly two week hiatus from pruning the fruit trees, the weather has calmed enough to get back out there. It is still soggy ground beneath the trees so I will not be doing the close work that takes a ladder because the feet would sink into the earth the moment I step on a rung. I will continue to use my saw on a stick (Ryobi pole saw) to work my way through big clumps of water suckers that sprout along the limbs.
The process of tree trimming will be done in bits and pieces when I do not have other more important tasks and when it is not raining. It will still take me a month or more to get around to all the trees.
Hopefully they will all be done by the time the blossoms are blooming.
I have been putting off the fruit tree pruning for as long as I could but the time has come to get to the task of nipping off the water sprouts (some more than an inch through and six feet long) along with the extra growth inside the tree.
One by one, each tree with need to be thinned out so fruit can grow while having good air flow through the branches. An orchard specialist once described it to me as a good trimming job of being able to throw a baseball through the winter-bare branches without hitting any limbs. Continue reading
All the fruit trees need to be pruned in order to force the trees to put energy into producing fruit instead of using its resources into producing water sprouts.
This is the top of the old pear tree, every one of these sprouts need to be trimmed off. Since this tree is nearly 100 years old, it is the full size version of the tree and stands about 17 feet tall. It is difficult to balance on a ladder while clipping the sprouts that can stretch 4 feet into the air.
My solution to the problem is to be lifted up on the platform of the tractor front loader. The platform can put me 9 feet above the ground. From this vantage point I use my favorite power tool, my saw on a stick. Most people would know the tool as a pole saw. It takes several times of being lowered to the ground, re-positioned and raised again at least 5 times to reach all the top branches on this great old tree.