Five and a half hours pruning today. It's been warm (maybe 10 degrees warmer than last weekend!) and dry, and the trees are still in their winter dormancy. Which would be about as perfect as it could be, if it weren't for the wind...
,The tree shown was my first this morning, an apple. At some point it's been cut across the top in a perfect horizontal and the tree had, in response, grown a pile of thin branches, reaching straight for the sky. As trees do! But this isn't ideal. The owners wanted it to have more shape and when the apples are out of reach, even with a ladder, then picking them really does become a chore.
Pruning is not hard, but it does require a little bit of knowledge, the right tools, and courage. Simple slanted cuts to prevent the collection of water, just above an outward facing 'node' (the bumpy bit on a branch from where new branches or buds will imminently sprout), are all that's needed. The smallest, slightest branches require secateurs, thicker ones loppers and the largest, a good pruning saw. Different plants have different requirements beyond this (nothing Googling can't tell you) but for most, pruning is a winter job.
I started by taking out the 3 Ds - dead, diseased and damaged, but the tree was pretty much OK. And then I looked for crossing branches that might rub and damage each other. Then it was onto removing the clutter in the centre. Ideally the tree should end up in a 'goblet' shape, with plenty of air circulating in the middle.
The tree will respond to its haircut in spring by growing a lot of 'vegetative' (non fruit producing) growth and will need a trim in late summer. And ongoing tweaks for several years yet. But it's a start.
This afternoon's tree seems to have resisted the chop! No evidence here:
The shape of this tree is lovely, but the branches are crowded, particularly in the centre, and I removed a lot of material, including one big branch clinging on for its life! Again, way higher than can be reached with a ladder, so I've also tried to remove some height. There is a problem with codling moth pests with this tree - easily treated by removing the fallen fruit (the larvae overwinter in the apples on the ground then the moths crawl up the trunk to mate later in the year and lay their eggs in the developing fruit) and attaching a wax band around the trunk. No chemicals, nice and organic. I'll be returning to this tree when the winds have died down. No fun swaying about at the top of a ladder with a saw!
There is something really lovely about pruning. It's one of those focused activities that even though it requires concentration, allows your mind to wander and contemplate - definitely therapeutic. For me though, it is because when you're up in the middle of a tree, contemplating each branch - which needs to go, which can stay, where each is heading - you really get to know it. Where the problems might lie, where the fruit will form... And of course it's beautifully creative, trying to make a pleasing, balanced and attractive shape. If you catch me standing back, staring at the branches with my eyes slightly squinted, that's what I'm up to!
So a little more work yet to do here, but I leave with a bag of rotten apples for the compost and a great big bag of prunings which, when dried, will be next winter's kindling for the fire. Job done.
Treading Lightly is simple living, within your means and the means of the planet, and making a minimal impact on the Earth. Find out more here about Catherine, of Barefoot Solutions, does this from day to day.