Sunday, January 22, 2012

Winter Pruning of Apple Trees

   Whenever the weather's conducive this month, I'm out pruning the apple trees.  Winter is the main time for pruning fruit trees, since they're dormant then, and with no leaves it's easier to see the excess branches and limbs that need to be removed.  We also prune back the new growth in summer to keep trees lower, as summer pruning results in less regrowth than winter pruning, but winter is the main time to remove or head back older branches and limbs.
   We start pruning the apples in Jan. since they're the cold-hardiest fruit trees.  When we finish the apples in late Jan. or early Feb. we'll prune the pears, then prune the peaches in March.
   First Bill goes through with a chain saw, making any large cuts needed.  We had to remove some limbs that crossed over other limbs this year, some that were too low on the trees, and some that were too high.  Bill also had to cut off a few limbs with black rot cankers or fire blight cankers.
Bill's cutting overly dense, crossing large limbs with a chain saw.  He just cut off the limb in front of him.
   Then I use loppers, hand pruners and occasionally a hand saw to remove branches that are overly dense, damaged, diseased or dead.  Our workers Lucas Epler, Joe Tillman and our son Michael Reid assisted with this in early Jan., before they had to go back to college.
I'm using long-handled loppers to remove upright vegetative branches here.  The left of this tree has already been pruned, while the tree in back has not been pruned yet and still has many upright branches.
   Well-pruned trees will be open enough to allow good light penetration though the foliage canopy to the fruit, allowing fruit to develop good red or yellow color and optimum levels of sugars.  Keeping trees from getting too dense also improves air circulation, allowing fruit and leaves to dry off quicker after dews or rains to minimize fruit rots and other diseases.  This also allows better spray penetration of materials that help prevent fruit diseases and insect damage.