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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pruning in January

It seems that one must do work in an orchard in January.  I never would have known this if it weren't for a gift I received from some very good friends.  According to The Backyard Orchardist (my new bible for all things fruit-tree-ish), you must prune dormant apple and pear trees in January.  It does reduce the amount of fruit your trees would have borne, but the trees will be healthier in the long run.

So today being a mild January day, I headed over to the orchard with my loppers.  ["Over to the orchard" is fancy talk for "around the side of the house", by the way.]   The homestead already had two established pear, and two established apple trees when we moved in.  As far as I can figure, the trees are about 3 years old.  That they have been virtually abandoned for those 3 years is painfully obvious.
Moonglow Pear
Keifer Pear
You can see how close together the branches are.  The trees have been growing well, and with the exception of one apple tree, all are tall and healthy.  (The one apple is crooked
 and stunted.  I like it, but I worry it is going to keel over.)

As you can see from the close-ups, the bases of the trees are full of little, feeder branches and shoots.  These actually take energy away from the upward growth of the tree and will limit the fruit production.  So they had to go.  

I was pretty sparing with my loppers.  In truth, I really don't like hurting trees, and am a live-and-let-grow type of girl.  But I want these trees to do well, and branches in the wrong places can rub against each other and invite fungus and rot.  And, honestly, who wants that?

My problem with the loppers, wonderful tool that they are, is that ours are old and dull.  So I am still a bit worried about rot and fungus from so mis-pruned areas.  Trees are so delicate!

Anyway, the four, older fruit trees are now pruned.  And I took off a feeder or two from one of the new plums.  So precocious!

I feel like I am starting our year off right.  Taking care of the homestead should be a year-round task, not just a few months of frenetic activity.  And I am grateful for The Backyard Orchardist, and for the friends who gave it to me when I moved away. 

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