Many people think that in winter the gardener has nothing else to do but sit and snore by the fire. Well, there's not as much to do now as during the rest of the year, but there are a still a few jobs that need to be done. Here is a job I did during the holiday season, but it can also be done this month, so don't despair. ;-)
Pruning the apple tree. In my back garden I have a nice little apple tree ( only three years old) that needed to be pruned. See all that crisscross of branches? That won't do at all. A healthy apple tree needs light and lots of air circulating around its branches.
So I removed many branches and shortened quite a few others as well, and here is the end result. This is most of what I cut off
and this is what remained on the tree.
A big difference, don't you think? This time of year is a good time to prune your apple trees and you can prune them even when it's freezing. Apple trees, like roses, need lots of light and air so the rule of thumb is: prune enough branches away so that a turtle dove or blackbird can fly through its branches.
And now it's time for the 64,000 dollar question: which branches to prune away completely and which to shorten?
See that small brown branch ? (Sorry, it's not such a clear picture, I have an auto focus camera but sometimes it doesn't do the auto focus thingy all that well.) That is a useless branch that will only produce leaves and you don't want zillions of leaves on your apple tree, you want branches that produce fruit.
How to tell the difference? Simple, this is a branch with buds that will only produce leaves
and this is one that will produce fruit. Notice the difference?
Those very short twigs are called spurs and they produce both the flowers and leaves. And it's the flowers (blossom) we need to get apples!
So this spur here is your friend. Branches that have a lot of these spurs will bear fruit, so those stay on. There are also branches that have spurs but towards the end of the branch it produces merely leaf buds. Well, that end of the branch you trim away. Other branches that need to go are: dead and damaged ones, branches that grow in the wrong direction or are too close to other branches and, of course, all the branches without spurs.
I know that lots of people are unsure of how to prune a fruit tree but hey, it's just pruning, not brain surgery, OK? Happy pruning!
NB. There are apple trees that don't produce spurs. If you have one of those then you're up a well known creek without a paddle. ;-)
After all that pruning exercise we're back to our regular winter programme:
copyright 2008: Y.E.W. Heuzen
An apple a day, keeps the doctor away!