Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tree Pruning 2

Tree Pruning 2

[photo: Ain't is pretty? Flowers on my "Moonglow" pear].

I am not an excellent pruner, especially of my fruit trees. But I do know the basics. Here are some rules to follow for pruning fruit or other trees:

1. Unless you inherited a neglected orchard, do not remove more than one-third of the branches at a time. If you inherited an orchard, consult an orchard arborist!

2. Make sure your tools are sharp and in good working order. It is frustrating to begin a big pruning job and a tool does not work. I like a folding hand saw, pruning shears (secateurs), long handled pruners and a large hand saw. I am not comfortable with power equipment and I think chain saws encourage you to cut, baby, cut and over do it! (I once read that the best advice to give someone contemplating pruning a tree is to not let your husband or other male loose on it with a chain saw!) And made sure the tool fits the cut- hand-held pruning shears will not cut a half-inch diameter branch. You will damage the branch, the tool and/or your hand!

3. Make a cut from below (in an upward direction) first, then cut downward from above. This prevents the bark from pulling off in a long strip when the limb meets gravity (a sign of poor pruning is when you get a lot of these peeled areas at the site of a cut. Some accidental peeling is unavoidable, a lot is a sign of carelessness).

4. Recently I read advice to not paint the cut limb- it traps germs against the wound. Allow the wound to heal in fresh, cold air.

5. Cut off unproductive “water spouts,” that is, the long, straight, vertical branches that often form where you pruned previously. They are ugly and, in the case of fruit trees, cannot support fruit.

6. Cut off any crossed limbs, or, in young trees, you can use spreaders (see last entry) to move them around.

7. Don’t “top” trees (cut off all the branches on a mature tree to try to make it smaller) unless you want to kill it!

8. Lastly, if you cannot reach the fruit on a limb, cut it off!

Happy gardening!

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