Wrangling unpruned fruit trees and not poking your eye out!
Updated: Feb 12, 2020
It's been a while...4 years since our trees (apple, peach and plum) got a pruning. Much like sullen teenagers with bangs obscuring their eyesight, our trees looked pretty messy.
Last week, the sun shone brightly and invited my old bones outside to start pruning. Mind you, by February, you've lost those toned upper body muscles and tan... and you look more like bread dough than a spry farmer. Nonetheless, boots on, bucket with 2 small saws, pruning shears and tree wound compound in tow, I headed out.
I love pruning. I greet the tree and take in its shape. I try I understand its decisions... why that branch had to grow in that direction and what might have triggered crazy shoots to sprout from that broken stem over there. I often walk around the tree a few times and imagine how I might facilitate light penetrating through to the center, so that fruit buds swell all over and not just at the tips of boughs...Below is my thought process before each cut...
1. If the branch is damaged or diseased, remove
2. If one branch is "hogging" the light of other branches, remove
3. If branches are touching, poking at each-other or generally getting on each-other's nerves, just turn the car around... or in tree terms: cut back fighting branches to restore the peace
4. Don't be excessive! Like when cutting your 7-year old's bangs, don't cut off MORE than a third of the canopy, or they won't want to go to school the next day...that's not EVER happened to me...
Pruning is a quiet time and surprisingly meditative. Your brain can't wonder too far because you'll cut yourself, have a branch fall on your noggin or have a tablespoon of saw dust pile in your eye...stay in the moment.
Then, once the itch to cut back more has subsided, you'll have a neat, presentable and non-argumentative fruit tree before you. Lovely!
I apply pruning compound on the sawn off bits. "There, there, you'll thank me in April when your buds swell and the air flows freely though your boughs".