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 Time to Prune! 
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1146
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post 
I think I’ve concluded, if not alluded that - That's why I’m trying to get my pruning started (if only further along) earlier every year. My problem is simply too may trees :?

With a very young tree, aged 1 to 7 years, winter pruning would likely be best. They don’t have all that much energy stored and guiding their growth, if not stimulating it by late winter pruning and avoiding any possible winter dieback seems reasonable.

But for the rest of those apples, pears, and plums (though I haven’t read the research), the earlier the better!

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Wed Jan 16, 2008 9:47 am
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1146
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
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I did some corrective pruning for some younger friends who thought it best to let their trees (a good size orchard) grow free for 3 years before training them. Well, that doesn’t work on kids, or trees - and what a waste.

Instead of strong crotches and well placed scaffold limbs, the few that had naturally developed were 6 or 7 feet off the ground and too high to work with or in. The unfortunate solution was to remove that healthy upper growth down to where it should have begun, thus removing up to 50% of some trees and leaving others with large lop-sided branches. As we discussed the problem they soon realized it’s far more important to prune early than wait.

Though some trees arrive with a good assortment of branches - most don’t. If you’re growing a newly grafted tree from the rootstock up, you must decide where its limbs will begin. And if you’ve come home with a plastic root-wrapped $8.99 Weekend Special, it will likely need a serious cut.

The good one (generally arriving by UPS from a well known catalog nursery): Headed at the end of its first year, it likely has 4 or 5 well spaced branches. In that case, all you need to do is protect it and allow them to grow. If you simply prune anything resembling a ‘sucker’ coming from below the ‘whirl’ of upper branches, then head, or snip the tip bud of the most aggressive of those upper branches to the level of the others, you’re likely set for the season.

The newly grafted tree: after one year of growth (occasionally it takes a second year to reach the necessary height), you should have one straight ‘shoot’ with a terminal bud at the top. When dormant, decide at what level you want the highest branch on the tree and prune it just above that bud. The buds below will also become branches.

The Weekend Special: Usually a two, or even three year old tree, with only a couple branches and a weak crotch (easily split by an eventual load), you’re going to do some major surgery. Deciding can be relatively easy; removing perhaps half the ‘tree’ is more difficult. But apply the same strategy as above; with the most upright ‘branch’ either becoming the trunk or removing stock down to the main trunk; decide where you want your highest limb to be - Remove everything above that, along with any aggressive ‘side shoots,’ plant and protect it. If any ‘one shoot’ gets a lot larger/longer than the other ‘branches’ trying to form, you may pinch it’s terminal bud (top) out, allowing the others to catch up. But do this fairly late in the season if at all.

-- That bit of information would have ‘added’ years to my friend’s trees! Instead, we removed years~ The ‘good part’ is that the substantial energy stored in their established root system should push all kinds of new growth. The bad part is once again waiting for it!

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Mon Feb 18, 2008 2:45 am
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Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2006 1:49 pm
Posts: 220
Location: Rochester, WA
Post Ok Viron, now you did it!
Viron,

After reading your last post here, I decided to go out and correct my complete orchard. It is done and looks pretty good. The only part you left out is that my wife says I have to stay outside in the doghouse cause I ruined the orchard. Do you think I will get fruit before I tire of the dog food?

Actually, getting a tree off to a great start is very important. Many people want fruit next year and fear making the cuts that will increase the yield 2 - 3 years down the road.

Greg

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Mon Feb 18, 2008 7:04 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1146
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
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Thanks for telling me that Greg; makes my late-night post feel worthwhile [actually, our clock here's an hour ahead - guess we're ready for Spring!] - and I suspect you’ll (eventually) have a better orchard because of it! It was sad to make the “big cuts” necessary to bring my friend’s trees back into shape - but they took it well.

Part of establishing nearly 125 acres of land; they’ve dug a massive pond, built a magnificent ‘old fashioned’ barn, helped build the new house and had two kids in the last three years! They’d also protected (with tall strong fencing) those young trees very well - and they raise goats! They, too, had gotten used to their less than ideally shaped fruit tress.

But like I said; there’s all kinds of energy stored in those roots and next year they should have plenty of new limbs to aim and train. You too! But that’s a long time on a dog food diet! That’s the main reason my wife can’t/won’t watch me prune our trees, I’m too brutal (the second is we'd never make the same cuts.)! That was also a theme as I corrected the orchard of our friends; while everyone appeared fixated on twigs and spindly shoots, I focused on trunks and structure. But maybe I can’t see an Orchard for the trees :roll: (good work)

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Mon Feb 18, 2008 8:28 pm
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Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2006 1:49 pm
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Location: Rochester, WA
Post What is the best angle for branches?
It seems to me I remember something about 60 degrees. That would mean the branch is closer to horizontal than vertical. Actually it would be 2/3rds from vertical and 1/3 from horizontal? Is this the correct angle to get a strong branch?

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Tue Feb 19, 2008 11:40 am
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
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Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
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Funny, I’d have assumed something like 45 degrees would have been the correct angle to spread a limb. But as I just stood surveying the orchard, if my most successful trees - 60 degrees matched up nearly every time! That’s the scaffold limbs angle coming away from the trunk.

Rung by metal fence posts, as fence / wire supports, I’m also able to tie over young limbs to whatever angle looks best; and I’d have sworn it was more toward horizontal than 60 degrees. Playing more with this protractor, I’d have guessed spreading them to 45 degrees is what I’d originally aimed for? --Though I’d never ‘measured’ the actual angle.

I have learned that if you spread them too horizontal they tend not to extend but send up shoots off their tops, generally sapping the limb and not amounting to much. Too little and you’re not ‘stressing’ the tree enough to aid fruit production and they’ll continue to shoot for the sky. But at the ‘perfect’ angle (apparently 60 degrees) they’ll develop the same ‘whirl’ of branches near their tip as did the main trunk, and those will become wonderful fruit-bearing branches.

Good question, or observation; I guess I’ll have to add the kid's protractor to my orchard tools!

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Tue Feb 19, 2008 12:30 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1146
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: Time to Prune!
Just an ‘update’ on this years pruning {09}. I began ‘early’ again this fall, shaking or knocking leaves off my first apple trees then moving directly into a fig ...and persimmons. As I’ve been looking for and taking on some paid pruning jobs {anyone in Washington or Yamhill Counties interested in pruning services, let me know!} - this year; in anticipation, I got the jump on my orchard. I’m glad I did! The heavy snow, totaling 30 inches broke a major limb off my Burbank Red Ace plum - because I hadn’t pruned it yet. The majority of trees were finished, had less ‘leggy surface area’ and weathered the snow just fine.

Did-up a friends trees; those first mentioned on this thread. Her trees have become like my own and now a pleasure to work among. She’s actually one of my job references, so I like to keep them looking good! Come to find another friend up the street (in the stately house) has a Tri-grafted tree! This fall it had a magnificent crop of Gravenstein’s, along with its Red and Yellow Delicious! Delicious! As it’s across from the school - me and the kids felt free to snatch apples ‘at will!’ I’m considering an offer to the High School’s Ag class to give them a lesson in pruning as the tree’s now under control; in these economic times bringing fruit trees into production seems a worthwhile skill & investment!

I suspect I’ve covered ‘Training’ in here somewhere...? But it’s also fun, while pruning a tree, to realize you can ‘fill in a hole’ and/or establish new limbs in the process! After doing up (another) friends old Red Del. Tree (actually one of my favorite apples), she asked "What's going on inside it"..? Dragging brush (I do that too), she pointed to a couple of large ‘limbs’ I’d tied-on inside its canopy. I had to smile, it did look weird; but the tree had some ‘beautiful’ up-right, 4 - 5 year old ‘shoots’ I’d bent over to form new scaffold limbs! With open space on a couple sides, and not wanting to waste all that potential - I laid them over and weighted them down, using the largest and heaviest pieces of debris. I explained that ‘next year’ they can be removed and she’ll have two new limbs! “You really do know what you’re doing” she proclaimed! Felt good, for years I’ve just considered such activity simply my personal indulgence.

In a younger (12 year) orchard I salvaged the trees from an ‘over-enthusiastic’ pruner... tying over prime one-year shoots to branches below, or weighting them down with chunks of wood to fill in open areas. Even took some photos! (W/film...)

While working inside those ‘open’ trees I described how easy it would be and how well it would likely work to ‘bark-graft’ some scions of ‘anything you’ve ever wanted’ to the sun exposed limbs. So that’s the plan - to fill in the trees ‘missing limbs.’ Fun & exciting!

So, other than me doing my thing, I thought I’d bring this thread back to the forefront - because
It’s Time to Prune :mrgreen:

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Sat Jan 31, 2009 12:08 pm
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Joined: Thu Dec 25, 2008 3:58 pm
Posts: 131
Location: Just east of Tacoma WA
Post Re: Time to Prune!
If you have an old 'Standard' full sized apple tree, like King, it is probably best to prune in summer, when the spring flush of growth is over, say around 4th of July weekend. Summer pruning is more dwarfing. It is a lot harder to see what your'e doing, so a preliminary winter thinning of the crown to allow ladder sets may also be needed. Winter pruning can stimulate the old Standard trees too much, especially the high vigor triploids lke Mutsu and King.
For personal comfort, I also prefer late winter pruning, but it is a tool to control vigor, and short of having the trees on size control rootstocks, summer pruning really helps.
Also, with some stone fruit, the larger pruning cuts before a wet spring can act as entry ways for brown rot and other fungi.

http://cahe.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h/h-312.html

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Sun Feb 08, 2009 9:40 am
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1146
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: Time to Prune!
Here’s where I’ll be ‘Tomorrow’:

Get hands-on experience pruning a variety of fruit trees. There will be a variety of fruit trees, young and old, including restoration cases. There will be an opportunity for everyone to get hands on experience. This class will be held outdoors. Please dress appropriately, including the possibility of a little rain. Classes offered by the Yamhill County Master Gardeners and OSU Extension.

Tools: Please bring your own pruning tools. Cleaning supplies will be provided to reduce the possibility of contamination of tools. If you don’t have all of the necessary tools there will be some extras available.

The location is Easter Farms and a neighboring farm in Dayton between Hwy 18 and Hwy 99W in Dayton. 4570 SE Lafayette HWY Dayton, OR. Viron Fessler will be the instructor. Viron is a longtime Home Orchard Society (HOS) member and active on the forum. He was a two term board member of the local (Yamhill Co.) Luelling Memorial Chapter of the HOS before its consolidation into the main organization.

Cost for this class is $15 for the general public, $10.00 for certified Master Gardeners. This class qualifies for recertification credit for Master Gardeners. To register online, please go to the following URL
http://extension.oregonstate.edu/yamhil ... ng-classes To register in person, please visit the OSU Yamhill County Extension office at 2050 NE Lafayette Ave, McMinnville, OR. For more information, contact Randy Williamson at yamhillmg@oregonstate.edu


As of yesterday, it appears we’ve got a full class! Guess I can finally put some of this talk to work ... hope the rain gives a respite

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Fri Jan 15, 2010 7:53 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1146
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: Time to Prune!
I had a great time leading the pruning demonstration for the Yamhill County Master Gardeners today, south of Lafayette, Oregon. We began with an overview of tools then eased into a well-kept 5 year orchard - whose trees closely resembled my own, some 25 years older. The obvious difference being ‘dwarfed’ trees grown on a clay hill farm vs. those on the bottom land of a onetime dairy with topsoil 10 feet deep! They were a joy to work with.

As expected, the Master Gardeners were good. It’s a treat working with people fully aware of the basics, if not a wee bit more. The weather was fine, a brief mist before the program and dry thereafter, couldn’t have asked for more this time of year.

As I described my association with the Home Orchard Society I suggested anyone with follow-up questions post them here. I also invited them to our upcoming grafting classes and propagation (scion exchange) fair - back on the West side 8)

After working over a Granny Smith apple, Bartlett pear and part of a Italian plum, several of us had to be ordered to the next event: rejuvenation of an old orchard. Having pre-toured the site, I left my pruning gear behind - everyone realized why when we got there. The home is the tenth oldest in Yamhill County, a one-time boarding house for travelers having ridden up from Portland or Salem on the Yamhill River. Magnificent!

I gauged the trees, around 12, at least 100 years old, and after recalling a recent description of the government’s land grant requirement that every homestead must include fruit trees to qualify -- suggested they were likely nearer 150! The owner for the past 50 years assured us they were ‘old’ when he got the place, and last pruned 20 years ago. But they looked good for their age, apparently once well cared for, they were balanced and strong, if too overgrown to take on in an afternoon!

The owner pointed across the Lafayette Highway to the largest pear tree I’ve ever seen - must have been 90 feet, competing with large leaf maples and ancient oak trees. He said it gave off winter pears but could only be picked from a helicopter! I suggested he have the varieties identified and if there was anything outstanding it could be propagated. I also suspected most were hollowed out by rot, but followed up with the fact apple trees can live a long long time like that. Their growth had reached equilibrium, very little shoot growth, but all producing useable fruit.

So - if anyone one finds our site and forum, and have any questions regarding pruning fruit trees, fruit trees in general - or events - just ask. And, it was a pleasure to be surrounded by kindred spirits!

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Sat Jan 16, 2010 4:41 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 21, 2010 1:56 pm
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Post Re: Time to Prune!
Viron, I have read through this entire thread and really enjoyed reading about your pruning adventures. I'm hoping you can throw a little advice my way.

I have an apple orchard of 53 trees (28 varieties) here where I live in southern Ohio. The first dozen I planted in 2006 were from a local tree nursery. This was before I knew anything about pruning, different apple varieties, etc. They were made up of Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Jonagold and Granny Smith. Almost without exception, they were pruning nightmares, horrible limb crotch angles, etc. Of course, I didn't realize this at the time. Well, I try not to start a hobby without a strong attempt at doing it right, so over time I've learned a good bit about pruning and care of apple trees, and after that, I planted a bunch more also, and I'm now up to 53. After the initial dozen trees from the local nursery, ALL of the trees I've planted have been bareroot trees (combination of whips and feathered) from various reputable nurseries on this side of the U.S.

I have now gotten my first apples from approximately 35% of the trees, and should be getting first fruit from all but a few of the rest this year, if the presence of fruit buds are any indicator.

I have some friends on-line who have larger orchards and much more experience than I and they have helped me along a lot with advice. Over the last few years I feel like I have learned a little more about pruning each year, until now there is really just one last area that I still feel uncomfortable/uncertain about. That question is, what to do with "main limbs" growing horizontally OFF of the "scaffold" limbs. My scaffold limbs are established, and I already cut off everything that grows straight up, straight down, back towards the tree or is rubbing against another limb. How do I determine which of those "secondary limbs" - that's what I call them - get to stay and which get to go? It's raining outside right now or I'd go take a picture and post it for you. I'll try to do that a little later. Is there a main "rule" about how to prune those limbs? Or, should I just leave them as long as they're not shading out other limbs? Now, keep in mind, I'm not talking about twigs or fruit bud shoots, here, I'm talking about LIMBS, some of which are 2 years old now.

Any thoughts?

Joshua
Ohio


Thu Jan 21, 2010 2:21 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
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Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: Time to Prune!
Joshua (thanks for the compliment), wish you’d have been at the pruning seminar last weekend, working among the trees, that was a collective question among the participants.

I like to balance the main scaffold's (usually 4 with an open vase structure), not letting any one or two become dominant. I also look for symmetry, keeping in mind the weight of an eventual fruit (or snow) load and how far it will be from the main trunk – and all the torque put on that ‘one limb.’ To keep them balanced, I often defer to the smaller of the two, with the understanding ‘that’s’ a limb I intend to keep. Some smaller limbs will eventually be shaded out, thus removed in time.

If they’re not shading another limb, and your trees are young, I’d leave them. Let them feed the tree, they can always be removed. ‘Fine pruning,’ is the last work I do on a tree. It’s (to me) a combination of thinning and heading cuts on the outer-most fruit producing edges of the tree.

I’ll take the limbs in turn and wiggle them, watching to see all that’s attached to each. Rarely are they balanced, and one will usually ‘jump out’ as being too long, spindly, or just ‘out of place’ - take off the longest extension back to either a stem headed in a better direction or to the larger branch.

From your description, it sounds like you’ve got it! At this stage don’t be too worried about leaving too much. Many feel that anything beyond ‘perfection’ needs removed. My experience is less vigorous shoots, especially growing ‘sideways,’ are not going to sap or alter the base structure of the tree, and often times they’ll bear fruit.

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Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:29 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 21, 2010 1:56 pm
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Post Re: Time to Prune!
Viron, thanks for your reply. One reason this area is tricky for me is because I am a "hands-on", visual learner. It's not hard for me to figure out how to cut everything that goes straight down, straight, up, in towards the trunk, etc., but this area is a little more "nuanced". It stopped raining and I was able to get out and take a few pics this morning.

The yellow hash marks I have drawn in the photos are on the main scaffold limbs I am using as an example. The red hash marks I have drawn are the limbs growing OFF of the scaffold limbs. Those limbs with the red hash marks are the ones I'm asking about. Which should stay and which should go? As long as they're not shading out other limbs, should they all stay, just be cut back some when I prune this year?

Image

Image

By the way, most of those limbs with the red hash marks are growth strictly from the 2009 growing season. There's a few that had started in 2008, but most are from last year (2009). The soil where those trees are is pretty good and they put on a serious amount of limb growth all over the tree last year.

I look forward to your input.

Joshua


Fri Jan 22, 2010 7:20 am
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
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Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: Time to Prune!
Joshua, the red hashed limbs, or secondary limbs are all potential fruit producers. They are what you want! You’re right about their age; one is at least two years old and sending out stems of its own. You definitely want those limbs; they are filling out your tree. Also, growing ‘sideways,’ they’re no threat of taking over. What they do need is ‘headed.’

Within their tip, or ‘terminal bud’ is a hormone that suppresses the growth of the buds below (or behind) it. Left alone, they’ll take off from the tip and simply extend the branch, leaving spindly limbs. You must ‘head them,’ cutting back to the length of a limb you’d like to have; heading a preferred direction and to a downward facing bud. That will stimulate fruit bud formation and ‘beef-up’ the branch and tree.

Their growth looks great! You’ve plenty to work with. Roughly, I’d say you’d be pretty safe removing half their length, and any heading straight up, as one appears to be. Anything growing straight up will command the nutrients, produce few (if any) fruit spurs and generally continue going up.

The red marked limbs are what you want – they’re your new tree! Go easy on them! Likely leaving most, just shorten them and they’ll begin to ‘fan out,’ producing a combination of fruit spurs and the necessary new growth to sustain the tree.

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Fri Jan 22, 2010 8:04 am
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Joined: Thu Jan 21, 2010 1:56 pm
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Post Re: Time to Prune!
Viron, thanks very much, that is a great help. I'll be out cutting here in about another month once we get past our coldest winter weather.

Thanks!

Joshua


Fri Jan 22, 2010 8:25 pm
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