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 New to trees -- just planted first few -- pruning question 
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Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 8:44 am
Posts: 4
Location: Harrisville, NH
Post New to trees -- just planted first few -- pruning question
Hello, I'm new to growing fruit trees. I just planted my first four, 3 apples (Kingston Black and two Ashmead's Kernel) and a Seckel pear (another pear tree will have to go in next year, along with a cherry and a peach or two probably) and I have two Roxbury Russet bare roots arriving later in the month.

I'm in southwestern New Hampshire.

I already have one question-- several sources recommend "whip" pruning after planting, some say not to prune yet. The trees are about 3-4 feet tall at this point, one has side branches about a foot up but the others don't. I'd like the future mature trees to have their first branches about 4 feet off the ground. Should I cut them now at a lower height (e.g. 3 feet) or wait until there are some new branches at my desired future height (and cut the lower ones). Thanks!

Reed


Thu Apr 14, 2011 8:50 am
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1186
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: New to trees -- just planted first few -- pruning question
Reed, good question, and answer: “…wait until there are some new branches at my desired future height (and cut the lower ones).”

If the tip, or ‘terminal buds’ are still on them - let those grow straight up as far as they’ll get this summer. If existing branches are too low, yet good sized, bend up a nice one and tie it to a stake to make it as straight as possible. If it ‘snaps’ in the process, try another one… Then cleanly cut off the rest at the trunk. This summer allow one nice shoot to develop ‘straight up’ from the elevated (former) limb. Don’t be snipping off all other ‘new growth’ … but you can ‘tip pinch’ it to keep other shoots from competing with the one you want to become your extended trunk ...while leaving some energy gathering foliage.

After those shoots reach a healthy height - next winter you may cut the uppermost shoot off above the bud of your highest desired branch. The following summer (next) the 3 or 4 buds below that one will form your ‘scaffold limbs.’ Just keep the deer away!

…some may suggest you ‘tip pinch’ the terminal bud/s this summer, after it reaches your desired height, thus forcing it to branch (earlier) below… In a mild climate (like out here), that might work, but in New Hampshire, I’d fear those ‘newly formed limbs’ wouldn’t have time enough to harden off to withstand your colder temperatures. So it’s likely better you give anything not already at the height you wish a full year to develop before forcing them to branch.

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Temperate Orchard Convservancy: http://www.temperateorchardconservancy.org/index.php


Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:34 pm
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Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 8:44 am
Posts: 4
Location: Harrisville, NH
Post Re: New to trees -- just planted first few -- pruning question
Thanks! I think I am visualizing what you are saying. Does pruning promote shoot growth and branching though?

I am in zone 5 though at a bit of elevation. We have some cold days in the winter and can have lots of snow but also have a decent amount of summer and fall can linger a bit with warm weather too.

I forgot to say above that the trees are on a standard rootstock though the Roxburys will be on P2. I may let the Kingston Black get a little big (it's in the northwest corner) and keep the Ashmeads Kernels and Pears well pruned down to match the Roxbury's.


Fri Apr 15, 2011 7:11 am
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1186
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: New to trees -- just planted first few -- pruning question
“Does pruning promote shoot growth and branching though?” With an established tree, pruning leaves an excess of stored energy, actually taking the tree out of balance. That energy has to go somewhere so it will often initiate buds hidden deep within the bark, especially where new sunlight hits.

A bareroot tree is no longer in balance as many of its feeder roots and rootlets are lost during the transplanting process, so most of them benefit from pruning the upper portion of the tree to bring it back into balance.

The Terminal or tip buds on a stem send a growth-inhibiting hormone back down the stem, keeping the buds below it from emerging as ‘growth buds.’ Removing the ‘tip buds’ while dormant invigorates those below, either forming (branching) vegetative stems or fruit spurs – as opposed to strictly lengthening the original stem, via its terminal bud.

Standard rootstock should allow for quick growth… though I’d still let it harden off, as opposed to tip-pinching and forced branching in one season…

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Temperate Orchard Convservancy: http://www.temperateorchardconservancy.org/index.php


Fri Apr 15, 2011 6:11 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1186
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: New to trees -- just planted first few -- pruning question
…I just got in from helping my neighbors plant around ten fruit trees they bought from One Green World yesterday. Beautiful trees! After planting three Amere De Berthcourt ‘cider apple’ whips, we discussed where they’d like their uppermost scaffold limbs, then snipped off the tops accordingly … leaving them all pruned to a north facing bud, or future limb. I actually saved the ‘still dormant’ tops as scion wood for a friend who’s converting sweet apple trees to hard cider trees.

While planting I described aiming the best branches to the north, as the trees will rarely send a nice branch into the shade that direction -- yet nice new branches will defiantly form on the south side… Also, if planting on a slope or hill, aim the tree slightly into the hill, as it will invariably begin to lean down hill over time.

I admired their rich soil and only had to bust it up some the second blade length down, with no need to mix subsoil with the richer turf from above. But I did have to repeat the adage – “Dig a $10 hole for a $5 tree,” whether you feel like it or not :wink: They’re so proud of their newly planted and pruned fruit trees …and I’ll admire them too as I drive by ...and collect my allotment of organic eggs :)

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Temperate Orchard Convservancy: http://www.temperateorchardconservancy.org/index.php


Sun Apr 17, 2011 8:37 pm
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