Mar 292012

Al Marshall has organized a fruit tree pruning workshop for the Grange Country Living Series this Saturday, March 31, from 1:30pm to 4:30pm. This will be held at Al and Sheila’s orchard on Westshore Drive just a short distance up the hill from Migley Point. If you have questions about how to get there give me a call at 2130.

There’s both art and science involved in pruning and a lot of people, including myself, who think they know what they are doing, but probably don’t. So we are bringing in an expert to help us understand the basic principles.

You can prune for production or you can prune for shape or you can learn to do both at the same time. We are used to seeing old apple trees shaved into an umbrella shape with all the waterspouts cut off. This is wrong. There’s something called apical dominance which we will learn more about Saturday. I used to think I needed to cut all those suckers. Because of apical dominance, more sucker growth is encouraged when you nip them all the suckers off.

But there’s even more to pruning. We need to learn how to handle first year wood and second year wood and create ladders, etc. etc. Kathy Veterane of Tapestry Garden Design will lead the workshop. Here’s an email she sent Al describing what will happen:

“I’m looking forward to meeting you and teaching fruit tree pruning techniques.

Please ask participants to bring appropriate tools:
Bypass hand pruners
Bypass loppers
Japanese style or pull stroke hand saws
Orchard ladders if they have them.

*No anvil type hand pruners or loppers* These crush branches and don’t make clean cuts.

I will bring a variety of tools that I find useful for pruning and will demonstrate their uses.

I will discuss proper pruning techniques, demonstrate how to locate the branch collars, and how to make a proper cut at the branch collar, describe why it is important to not leave stubs, teach the concept of apical dominance, and how to reduce water sprouts/sucker growth, how to increase fruit spur production, how to strengthen branches that have fruiting spurs, and how to recognize the common disease anthracnose.

I envision a short 30 minute or so introduction of the above info and then will demonstrate how I decide to make what cuts based on the principles I’ve taught. I think letting people practice these concepts with support will help strengthen their learning.

I began pruning fruit trees professionally in 1998. I have taken classes with Tom Thornton of Cloud Mountain Nursery and Cass Turnbull of Plant Amnesty. I have studied the books of tree scientist Dr Alex Shigo. Dr Shigo discovered how trees protect themselves by a process of compartmentalism, and how proper pruning allows the trees to protect themselves from disease. I will bring my copies of these books for folks to see.”

This should be a very helpful and worthwhile workshop. Here’s a photo showing the difference between a by-pass and anvil pruner (anvil on the right).


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