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applestar
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Need some advice on young container fruit tree pruning

:lol: I really think I just need somebody to tell me, "DON'T DO IT!" :lol:
It's all part of winter duldrums (already :roll:)

This is also not actually about Bonsai, but I've been trying to apply Bonsai tree training principles to my container fruit trees -- seedling citruses, avocados, etc. as well as lemon verbena -- with a bit of basic espalier and fruit tree pruning theory thrown in for good measure.

Here's the situation:

I have some seedling citruses, avocados, and a mango that grew really well over the summer. They live outside during frost-free months, then inside during the cold months.

They are currently being shaped by pulling or weighing down the long branches and competing leaders, and selected main leader is being supported to grow upright, etc. Some of them are really overgrown and need the branches shortened, and there are some twiggy branches that need to go entirely. I have a few branches that I would like to see fatten up a bit (here's where the Bonsai training tech comes into play).

My understanding is that you let the branch grow out to get it to thicken. I also bent down the other branches so the tip shoot of the one I want to thicken is now apically dominant.

Does this sound about right?

With regard to the other, lower bent branches, they need to be shortened at some point, but I should still wait until late winter/early spring before new growth starts to cut them back right? No matter how unsightly they are or how much the long branches are starting to feel more and more like they're taking up much needed space/blocking available sunlight.... :x I'm also hoping for some plant hormone action here to encourage earlier fruiting (espalier tech) so I know I shouldn't cut them back but, rather, keep them bent down for a while, but I don't know for how long....

What about some new shoots on some of the citrus that are starting now, which no doubt will be weak and spindly and will be cut off later on? They'll send out more growth around February that I usually shorten to stubs when I set them outside in spring. All of these plants grow in spurts and make several strong new branches in late spring and late summer.

With the outdoor garden hibernating, I'm tempted to do more than I should with my indoor garden! :roll: Somebody stop me -- please! :wink:

(I'll move this thread to Fruit Tree Forum if it seems more appropriate, but it felt to me like a lot of what I'm trying to do here is closer to Bonsai work than to pruning outdoor, in-ground planted fruit trees.)
Last edited by applestar on Sun Feb 20, 2011 7:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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applestar
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Some of the citrus and a lemon verbena to the right with leaves ridiculously clustered on the end of long branches (I'm hoping that lopping them off near the trunk in spring just before setting them outside will result in bushy growth closer to the trunk.... I guess I'll just have to put my hands in my pocket to keep from cutting them off during winter, despite the tiny new buds that are starting to grow on the ends :roll: I keep thinking if I cut them off now, new buds would develop closer to the trunk NOW, but these shoots will turn out to be weak and spindly winter growth.)
[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/Image8271.jpg[/img]

Avocados and Mango:
[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/Image8272.jpg[/img]

One of the avocado -- trying to establish a 3-way branching canopy:
[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/Image8274.jpg[/img]

Trunk base of two of the Avocados:
[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/Image8276.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/Image8277.jpg[/img]
... and Mango:
[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/Image8278.jpg[/img]

As is often mentioned, with the big-ol' leaves that keep getting longer as the plants mature and loong internodes, neither avocado nor mango are particularly suitable for Bonsai specimens :lol: ... although the older trees are developing nice bark.

-- OT --
I can't believe these are the same avocados and mango from this May, 2010 photo:
[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/Image6862.jpg[/img]

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Gnome
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AS,

I've been pondering this all day now and don't really have much to add to what you have already surmised. Yes, allowing a branch, or trunk for that matter, to grow unrestrained will thicken it. Constant pinching/pruning is counterproductive to that process. I also tend to agree with your strategy of not pruning now in order to not encourage a lot of new growth that will only be cut back later. Better to encourage new growth when you can have them in good sun. So on both counts is seems better to wait.

Of the species you mentioned I have only dabbled with Citrus and basically gave up on them after a year or so. The seedlings grew well enough but my climate was making it difficult to envision a good future for them. Sorry that I can't be of more help.

Norm

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applestar
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Thanks for confirming my theories, Gnome. :D

I think I have the basic ideas down -- in my head -- after researching intensively for the past couple of years. I guess I just have to put them to practice and have more confidence that it's going to work. But I needed someone to say it for me. :wink:

I have no idea how these citruses, etc. are going to perform. I kept putting off BUYing grafted citruses because I just don't have the kind of space described as ideal for keeping them during the cold month. In the mean time, I kept planting seeds from the fruits we ate.... and here we are. :lol:

My intention now is to try to keep them small-ish. I certainly wouldn't be able to plant every single one of them in 24" containers, which is the usual recommendation. I'm not sure if I could even plant them all in 5-gal buckets, which is another size recommendation. I also don't have the realestate needed for shallow but wide Bonsai trays. So, we'll see how much I can get away with and still see some flowering and fruiting some day.

Anyone else have experience with these species? I was hoping for input from the Bonsai growing community's perspective because the conventional belief is that you need to plant them in biggest container you can manage, and even then, it won't be enough if you're not growing them grafted to dwarfing rootstock. That's mostly for citruses, of course. I've only seen one or two variety of avocados that "can be container grown" because otherwise, they grow up to be size of regular trees. (And mangoes are not even very often mentioned. :roll:) There are a lot of beginning avocado seed growers out there, but not very many that have gone beyond the science experiment stage.

I put the thread here in Indoor Bonsai Forum because these are not being kept dormant over the winter and I thought there might be some tips about what to do with them during winter beyond just keeping them alive (I got that part down. :P).

I guess I'll leave this thread here for a week or so, and then move it to the Fruit Trees Forum and see if I can get more replies there. 8)

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froggy
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my avocadoes and lemon trees usually died the winter they didn't fit through the door anymore, so i encourage you to find a solution whilst they are still small-ish :)

i am thinking your looking into bonsai techniques is the way to go.

there is also a post in the japanese gardening section on how to slow down growth on fruit trees... [url]https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=28113[/url]
and maybe if you comb through the container gardening section, there might be insights? - just thinking that's where i'd post about this probably....

so, people with experience please correct me if i am wrong, but the bonsai root pruning should work with a different shape container as well. i mean, since you're not going for the aestethics of a flat pot, as long as the amount root mass and the proportion to the planting medium is ok, you should be fine... (you'll want to watch out so nothing tips over, but again, if it's not going to be a bonsai, you don't have to reduce the amount of roots too drastically)
but as i understand it, you shouldn't really do much of that until they are the desired size, and not before growing season....

i can't speak for avocado, but the others i've seen as bonsai, so keeping them small should be possible, whether they'll yield fruit is another question...

good luck and let us know if you have any revelations :)
;)

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applestar
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Thanks for the replies so far. :D
I've moved the thread from the Bonsai Forum to the Fruit Forum to see if I might get more ideas. 8)

As I understand it, citrus trees actually benefit from aggressive rejuvination pruning and older branches could and should be removed entirely. I've seen photos of buckhorned orange grove while researching pruning methods. I suspect that this means they back-bud rather well.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the citruses (as well as avocados) are starting to throw out new shoots at this time of the year. Some of my oldest citrus trees are starting to unfold larger and thinner, somewhat pleated leaves as opposed to smooth/flat thick leaves reminiscent of bay leaves that they started out with as seedling trees.

Here's an interesting webpage on citrus pruning:
[url=https://www.agnet.org/library/bc/52007/]Training and Pruning the Citrus Trees[/url]

JONA878
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I have for several years been trying to bonsai an oak that I have been growing from an acorn Star.

It has been a journey in the dark for me but a couple of things seem to have helped.
Because I didn't want to encourage growth by trimming constanly into the wood I instead took to cutting all developing leaves and removeing two thirds of every individual leaf with a pair of scissors . Now after about five years they do seem to have given up growing large and are distinctly very much smaller in their size.
All shoots that are produced I have tied down with wire ties for the year until they give in and set in place.
The poor beast still doesn't look anything like the wonders that the experts produce.....but I live in hopes that another twenty years down the line things may improve...!!!
An apple a day.....keeps me in work.

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