Over the past few months, we’ve spent time in our apple orchard assessing which trees are doing well and which ones might need replacing soon. As some of you know, our trees are getting close to 40 years old (updated, see comments), so we give them extra special care. Right now, that special care involves pruning.
Pruning apple trees is important and wintertime is the best time to prune, so we’ve been able to take advantage of some warm winter days over the past couple of weeks to get our trees in shape for next Spring’s blossoms and next Fall’s harvest. We do all pruning ourselves by hand and we have a good number of trees, so pruning takes several weeks. We took a short intermission when the temperatures dropped, but now that it will be back into the 40s this week, we’ll be back out with the shears.
For anyone interested in the care that should be given to mature apple trees, we found two excellent articles that talk about older trees:
And here are a few tidbits about pruning and apple trees in general:
- Trees blossom in spring. Each flower bud opens to five flowers, and apple trees need just five percent of their flowers to develop fruit in order to produce a good crop of apples.
- Apple trees need six or more hours of direct sunlight each day in summer.
- Apples grow on wood from the previous year so it’s important to prune carefully and to know which wood is old versus new.
- Sunlight and air circulation are important for quality fruit. As the first article above says, a good fruit tree should not make a good shade tree.
- Water spouts are vertical shoots growing off of mature branches or up from the ground at the base of the tree. Sometimes, water spouts are called suckers because they “suck” the energy from the tree. Any shoots growing from the ground and from the lower parts of the tree (shown below) should be removed.
- The first article linked above goes into detail on the different kinds of cuts that should be made, such as removal of rubbing/crossing branches, vertical shoots, broken branches, shaded branches, and so on. It’s a good read.
- The second article linked above mentions “fine tuning” pruning, which is taking off some of the short spurs that bear apples. This encourages new growth.
In Spring, we’ll post pictures of the orchard in bloom. It’s quite beautiful (and fragrant, too!).