Fruit Tree Pruning – Short-term Losses for Long-term Gains

Februrary, 26, 2014

On the cool Saturday morning of February 15, nine of us huddled around the multi-varietal021514 big picture pear photo 31 web pear tree. We listened closely, moving from tree to tree, absorbing as much information as we could during the comprehensive pruning class taught by Ingela Wanerstrand.

Since the fruit trees are just coming into their fourth year, much of the pruning advice centered around training the trees and roots for strength in early years so they will bear well in the future. A few winced when she urged us to take off the fruit for the first three or four years. After looking at the faces, she followed up with this consolation, “Well, maybe leave one.”

Ingela initially inspected the results of her pruning from the prior year. She was very pleased, mostly with the presence of many fruit buds near to the center of the trees.

Taking aim at the blackberries!
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She demonstrated spur pruning, challenges of twisting branches and blind wood, how to work with apical dominance through pruning and bending, the importance of fruit thinning, open vase versus central leader shapes, and tying branches for less or more vigor. The magic is in the way she constantly made decisions about priorities and design.

She had a choice of taking out a branch connected to a branch or a branch connected to the trunk and she chose to keep the branch connected to the trunk. On the multi-varietal pear, she headed back the more vigorous Harrow’s Delight so the other varieties could compete. She chose to head back a branch to another side branch of similar size so as not to create too many water sprouts.

We all beamed when we got to the Liberty. It is our star. It has a beautiful open-vase 021514 Liberty saw photo 23 web rotatestructure with a whorl of sturdy branches and well-angled crotches. (Who would have known from it’s first summer when it was a very tall stick with hardly a branch!)

Ingela loves to go back each year to the trees she prunes. Some trees she has been pruning for 17 years! “That’s the best way to learn,” she urged, “by looking at the results of each of the choices you made.”

We are delighted that Ingela likes to keep coming back! Stay tuned for another class from the master next February.


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