Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pruning Apple Trees

Today I did one of my favorite garden jobs--favorite perhaps because it is the first of the season:  I pruned my apple trees.  There is still a foot and a half of snow on the ground, but in my little subtropical, south-facing patio, it felt balmy.  It seems early for fruit-tree pruning, but I had seen a man stringing sap lines in the "sugar bush" by the side of the road yesterday, so I figured it would be all right for me to work on the trees.

My European background comes to the fore when I deal with fruit trees:  I prune the heck out of them.  I keep the apple trees no taller than about seven feet, because I want to be able to reach every part of them without a ladder.  They seem to like the treatment, and reward me with huge (relative to their size) harvests.

The pruning consists mostly of getting rid of "suckers," those long, upright-growing branches bearing only leaf buds, and so called because they suck nutrients away from the fruit-bearing branches.  When my daughters were little they used to pick up the longest, straightest suckers to use as foils, and they would have sword fights.  I would gather the rest of the cuttings and throw them over the fence for the goats.  This being the first fresh food they'd seen in months, the goats would dive into the pile of suckers, and munch happily in the sun for hours.

Today, in the absence of both children and goats,  Wolfie and Bisou picked up a few suckers and carried them around for a while.  I left the rest of them on the ground for the rabbit.  We're expecting another foot of snow tomorrow, and I figured he might get hungry.

4 comments :

  1. There was a documentary about the monastery shootings out in western missouri, and part of the film is an interview while a monk prunes the apple trees, a job he didn't think he'd have so soon (but the former pruner had died in the shooting). It was fascinating. This is fascinating. I want to do this (and Mike doesn't hesitated like he does when I say the word "chicken").

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  2. Quite by chance I got two varieties called "Liberty" and "Freedom." It turns out that they are the perfect pollinators for each other, and are being advertised as the only trees that will give a decent crop without any spraying. And pruning is not hard to learn--your ag extension people could probably show you how.

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  3. And now we are getting that foot. I'll bet the bunny is grateful.

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  4. Unfortunately, the apple clippings are now completely covered. The bunny is under the bird feeder, but the seed is getting covered up faster than the birds can drop it. Tough times for bunnies, these.

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