Sunday, January 15, 2012
Though rewarding, fruit trees can be a lot of work, especially for the organic gardener. If you have, or want, apple, pear, peach, plum, or cherry trees, know that they have to be pruned every year in order to be productive, and to keep them in bounds for applications of organic sprays and for ease of picking. If you are unable or unwilling to do this (or pay someone to do it), grow easier fruits, of which there are many: strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and currants (where allowed), blueberries and even figs (which though fruit trees, do not exactly fit the prune-every-year rule). After pruning, fruit trees need applications of dormant/horticultural oil and various organic pesticides and fungicides. Above is a photo of me (January, 2012) in the apple tree we inherited (unpruned) when we moved in. I have since added three peach trees and two pears (among many other plants). Though my husband does the major work with my assistance, I did get up in the tree this year to prune (and did not fall out of it, like I did two years ago-ouch!). We took off a bunch of water spouts (new, totally vertical growth that will be unproductive) and a few large limbs we could not easily reach to pick fruit. I had done the major pruning earlier on the much smaller pear trees and the peach trees remain to be pruned severely and soon. We also do need to prune the figs- they respond well to pruning and are finally getting too tall to easily pick.
If you don't have fruit trees and are considering getting some, think about the work load. It can be fun, but it is work. And, if you do have fruit trees, get out there and do that annual pruning! To motivate yourself, remember the peach, fig, cherry and plum preserves, pies, fresh and dried fruit and the like!