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rainbowgardener
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Pruned our fruit trees

So I was out in the sunshine this afternoon, pruning our two peach and two apple trees. I had thought Feb might be the time to do that, but with all this warmth, they were starting to leaf out already, so I figured it had to be now.

My first time to do it, so I had some trepidations, but I plunged ahead. After doing some reading, I made myself this list of instructions:

1) Cut off dead, damaged, diseased branches
2) Cut it back to no more than six scaffold branches radially out from trunk
3) Cut off suckers from the base and water sprouts (vertically growing branches)
4) Remove crossing branches (at the base)
5) Remove branches that grow inward or downward
6) Leave at least six inches of space all around any branch
7) Prune out whorls to just the largest and healthiest branch
8 ) Shorten all remaining branches by at least a third, cutting to just above an outward facing branch

I may work on it a little more, but approximately that's what I did.

I need to figure out how to weight some branches down, so they grow more horizontally.
Last edited by rainbowgardener on Tue Jan 31, 2017 12:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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tomc
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Re: Pruned our fruit trees

I think you did good. More importantly you described your work well.

Lastly rake out old leaves and add a thin layer of mulch, leave six inches bare right next to the trunk, and add out to the drip edge.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Pruned our fruit trees

Good reminder! They have never been mulched yet, but I know I should.

I'll try to get pics, though I don't have before and afters. But the trees look much more opened up and shortened to where we will be able to pick the fruit without ladders.
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JONA
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Re: Pruned our fruit trees

Look forward to the pictures Rainbow.
Good to see you prune with sound logic.
1. Obsolete and detritus.
2. Large cuts and frame.
3. Secateur work.
To often a multitude of snips are used where one saw cut would be far better.
Good cropping!
John

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Re: Pruned our fruit trees

As an aside Rainbow,
I write a monthly piece about farm living now and from long ago for our local area magazine.
Thought you might be interested in this one on pruning that I did recently.
.....

Now that we are in the heart of winter, fruit farmers and gardeners all over the country will be busy pruning and training their bushes and trees ready for the new season. To the fruitman this is by far one of the most important jobs he has to do, get it wrong and it can take some considerable time to put right again.
They all will tell you though that despite the fact that they are having to work at times through some terrible weather , this is the job that they love the most. Truth is..if you don't enjoy pruning ..don't become a fruit grower. A third of your working year will be spent carrying out the task and for a lot of that time you may be completely on your own in the cold and wet. On our orchards alone we had over fifteen thousand trees to attend to every winter.
However, I have many memories from over the years where events have occurred while doing this job that have caused both greatly enjoyable and rather frightening experiences.
Let me elaborate.
When I first started in fruit growing all the trees were huge beasts that required ladders to prune and pick. These ladders were triangular three legged lumps of wood that weighed a ton and in the winter months the rungs would become lethal as ice from wellies froze onto them. In those days some of the girls who ran the packing sheds would come out with me in the orchards after Christmas when the apples had all been sold. Joining us also would be the farms four rams. These belligerent gents were given the run of the orchards to clear the windfalls and also keep them away from their wives now that the tupping season had passed. They were still in aggressive mode though and frequent fighting between them could be heard from a long way off as heads as hard as iron clashed together. Thankfully on the whole with us they were placid enough, although a butt from one of them on the odd occasion would bring a curse to the lips and a large bruise to the impact area. For some unknown reason though they took umbrage on the girls joining me and I enjoyed many a time as they chased the screaming ladies round their ladders until they were forced to seek refuge up their ladders, where, clinging onto the higher rungs, they with first pleading and then threatening language require me 'to do something'.
In later years we planted trees in tight rows that took on the appearance of a hedge like structure, with all the tops within easy reach from ground level. This was made possible by tying down the lower branches when the trees were young so that growth could be slowed and a good shape constructed. As a result the area around the tree was booby trapped with tethering strings. So you would be deep in thought as you snipped away until a careless step would leave you flailing helplessly as you headed southward. No matter how often we did this we never seemed to learn and laying there in the mud we would peer hopefully around to see if anyone else had noticed. Peels of laughter always signified the affirmative.
My one horrific memory of pruning dates back some forty or more years ago. I was pruning a particularly large Bramley which I was trying to get down to a more sensible level and had ascended to the top of the ladder to reach a branch that had decided to reach for the sky. I had a small chainsaw in one hand and with the other I clutched any available branch I could reach to hold myself steady. I lifted the saw up to commence cutting and as I did the saws cutting chain came into contact with a long thin twig. Now...any of you who have used such a saw will know that if there's one thing they don't like ..it's stray twigs. They can either cause the chain to come off its guide or whip the saw off at an angle.
The chain picked up the twig and running straight up it..buried itself into my shoulder and stuck there, the engine gently ticking over. With one hand clinging to the ladder and the other holding the handle of the saw I was unable to reach the off switch and the blade was tangled in my clothing too much to remove.
I very slowly descended the rungs trying desperately not to touch the trigger of the machine and wondering what damage had occurred to my shoulder. Once down it was untangled from my coat and sweater and damage assessment inspected. Thankfully it had not penetrated to bone level but exposed ligaments and torn flesh still looked quite decorative.
So I went home. No car then so it was a patch up time with sticky tape to pull the gap together and a bandage applied by the wife. Then back to work. They were tough days then!
I carry the scar to this day.
Still love pruning though; it's a skill that you must learn and understand to do well, but will give great satisfaction once mastered.
I would advise though that you adopt a healthy respect for the powered chain saw and the damage it can inflict on the unwary....it hurts you know.


Best wishes. John.
John

tomc
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Re: Pruned our fruit trees

Geepers.

I think I'll stick with a bow-saw and a sheet rock saw, with my bypass nippers.

I'm pretty sure I am not up to Monte Pythons' dread-knight.
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Taiji
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Re: Pruned our fruit trees

Hmm, that story gives me pause for just a moment, since tomorrow I am going out into the wilderness to cut firewood by myself. Know I shouldn't be chain-sawing alone...

JONA, if you are still there, I was wondering about number 8 in Rainbow's excellent description. On older trees, should one cut all remaining limbs back by one third as well? I always thought it was either cut a limb/branch off at the trunk or leave it alone. (except in special circumstances) I'm thinking of the old apple tree I have that you commented on a couple of weeks ago.

JONA
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Re: Pruned our fruit trees

Taiji wrote:Hmm, that story gives me pause for just a moment, since tomorrow I am going out into the wilderness to cut firewood by myself. Know I shouldn't be chain-sawing alone...

JONA, if you are still there, I was wondering about number 8 in Rainbow's excellent description. On older trees, should one cut all remaining limbs back by one third as well? I always thought it was either cut a limb/branch off at the trunk or leave it alone. (except in special circumstances) I'm thinking of the old apple tree I have that you commented on a couple of weeks ago.

Not normally, no.
I can't comment on Rainbows as there are no pictures yet.
There is quite a difference between pruning a fairly young tree that's out of hand and an old monster.
It's dangerous to generalise too much as what will work on one tree won't necessarily work on a neighbour if their growth patterns and health are diffferent.
As a norm cutting everything back on an old tree would only be done on major restructuring.
John

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applestar
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Re: Pruned our fruit trees

JONA, I enjoyed your descriptive article...all the way until you were hurt so terribly. Tough days (?!)

Is it a coincidence that I was watching/reading a somewhat dark anime/manga yesterday, in which the (immortal) main character avoided being seriously chainsawed by sacrificing his wool morning coat? He told the astonished attacker that the wool's friction stopped the chainsaw action. He survived being chainsawed in the shoulder.

But all of that make-believe blood is coming to life thinking about your injury. :eek: Definitely a cautionary tale to be heeded.

I have a camper's hand (chain)saw for some overhead applications -- toss the chain over the (small) limb and alternately pull the two ends -- which has served me well on occasion. Bow saw, folding pruning saw, pole saw/bypass pruners. Only powered tool I use on rare occasions is a small rechargeable sawzall. If I can't cut with any of those, then the task is left to DH with his small chainsaw when he can get around to it.

It's getting close to time to do some pruning myself. I'm glad for the review on the necessary proceedings. Thank you!
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Pruned our fruit trees

Yes, these are young trees.
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applestar
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Re: Pruned our fruit trees

Looking forward to seeing them grow and develop, rainbowgardener :D
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Re: Pruned our fruit trees

I have to prune my plumeria every year. This is a good time because the leaves have all dropped so I can see the structure. People think plumeria native, but it is not. It is native to Mexico, the Caribbean, and some parts of Brazil. Most truly tropical trees are not deciduous.

In the fall, I top the bilimbi, that tree grows a 10 foot canopy in a year.

I had to cut my rubbish tree in the front yard because it was over 30 years old and the roots were heading for the foundation and the branches were debarking so it was not healthy. I trimmed it myself for about 15 years before it got to high for me to reach with the pole pruner. After that, my tree trimmer would remind me every year it was time to trim it. I cost me about $300 a year to get it pruned. I do miss the tree, but it had outgrown the space. It is the main reason, I keep my citrus trees in pots and manageable. I will probably have to kill a couple of them though since it looks like they have escaped their pots and are too rooted to pul out anymore. They just don't make pots as good as they used to.

Pruning can be dangerous. It is always a good idea to have a second person as a spotter and backup just in case. If the tree is too big and you don't have the right equipment, it is better to get the trees trimmed professionally or cut down if you can't afford the annual cost. Trees are wonderful. They provide shade and cool the house and provide shade for people and shade loving plants. They are living things though and every thing has a life cycle. They have to be kept healthy and safe.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.



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