Notes from Windward: #67


Pruning the Fruit Trees

preparing for spring

Barbara getting ready to do some pruning

     On a sunny February day Gina and Barbara set out to prune Windward's fruit orchard. Having just attended a long lecture and demonstration on pruning fruit trees, they felt confident and informed enough to do more good than harm. (The lecture was a part of the Master Gardeners Program and given by the owner of a large local orchard.) Armed with sharp pruning shears and a long lopper, they sized up Windward's apple, plum and apricot trees. Most of the fruit trees were in need of serious pruning, having been neglected for a year or two. The apricot trees - less than a year old - had been severely pruned by a herd of range cattle that showed up a couple of times at Windward last summer. The apricots got a gentle shaping but the others got much more.

     The main motto of the orchard owner expert is that the worst thing you can do when pruning is 'Nothing.' Pruning fruit trees promotes open, reachable growth without having too many fruiting spurs to cause overloading the tree. Fewer, larger fruit is preferable to lots of small fruit. One way to prune most fruit trees is in a 'vase' shape. This is to open the tree up to interior sunlight. Crossing and misshapen branches are removed and the remaining branches are cut back to a manageable level. Branches that have leaf buds but no fruit spurs should be pruned back severely. We did our best to encourage a vase shape and cut back most of the fruit trees. The plums are more 'hairy' (more small branches) than the apple trees, so more attention was given to thinning these trees.

     After a day of studying and pruning trees, Gina and Barbara are confident that the Windward orchard will be producing bigger and better fruit in 2007!

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 67