Last year we did our first pruning in the orchard. Once again this year we decided to prune off lower limbs from the trees to make it easier to cut the grass beneath them. There are a lot of weeds in and around our orchard and if we don't get in to trim what's on the ground it can sometimes threaten to take over.
|This is what the orchard looked like when we first bought the property|
|Despite our best efforts the wind always takes down fruit for us.|
So more low hanging branches were removed this year but we also did a little spacing of branches. In some places the branches are so thick that it's hard for air and sun to reach inside and get to the leaves and fruit that need it.
|This waterfall of blooms was gorgeous in spring but the |
branches needed to be thinned so fruit has more breathing room.
At this time of year it is easy to view the branches themselves without their green cloak and see any irregularities that might otherwise be missed.
|Numerous lower branches were removed right at |
the trunk (*can you spot the mistake?*)
Before removing any branches it is important to follow the branch along its length. Start where the branch grows out from the trunk and follow along to see where it crosses other branches or perhaps parallels them. Some branches might appear dead toward the interior of the tree but sport lush growth at their tips. You can see if the branch is thick or thin. Does it look like a strong branch that would support a load of fruit or is it small and weak? The number of buds will also be apparent giving you an idea of the branches health. By viewing the branches as a whole you also get a sense of the structure of the tree.
We cut back a number of branches as you can see from the debris littering the ground of the orchard.
Our main goal this year was creating some breathing room on trees that were overly crowded. While last year we used a chainsaw and removed some major branches this year we used only a handsaw and loppers as we were working on smaller limbs in the interior of the trees.
* When cutting branches back to the trunk you should make sure to cut them just outside the branch collar where the branch connects to the trunk. It takes more time for a tree to seal the wound on a long stub than one that is flush with the collar. In the picture above you can see where that wasn't done. I'll obviously need to go back and check our work!