The first apple blossom popped open on the kitchen table today. It is on a bough pruned off of a beautiful, mature apple tree at The Circle Women’s Centre two-and-a-half weeks ago. It holds centre stage in out hearts as well as our kitchen.
As winter loosens is grip, I’ve turned to my favourite early spring chore, pruning fruit trees. I have had several fabulous opportunities to prune this season: a gorgeous mini-orchard of a long-unpruned apple, pear, crab apple and cherry on an open hillside overlooking the city; a venerable apple tree rumoured to have been planted between the world wars; and the young trees in our own yard. Three very different situations with such different needs!
The gorgeous spreading trees surrounded by grass and sun, needed simplifying. Their crowns were so densely branched that the centre of the trees were fully shaded. Fruit trees require sun. So far we cut back quite a lot, some old growth and some young suckers. We still have the pear tree to go.
The venerable apple had grown too close to a cedar that had been recently cut down. But as a result, it had grown at a daring angle, reaching for sunlight. It had several large dead and dying branches asking to be cut. Others had twisted and tangled and one made a U-turn!.
The young trees were easy, they just needed their canopies opened and they needed to be trimmed to fit their in-town yard.
The principles of pruning fruit trees are few and simple:
* cut the suckers (stems coming from ground level or below the graft);
* cut the water sprouts (branches sticking straight up, sometimes in clusters at the site of an old cut);
* cut branches that are crossing and could rub against each other, damaging their bark;
* cut branches that are growing into the middle of the tree, creating shade where the tree wants sun.
Go ahead and prune, the trees love it! It truly lightens their load. And remember to put the cut branches in a vase of water on the table to watch spring come early to your kitchen, too!