Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Renovating Older Fruit Trees

On January 17th, a group of individuals braved the thick fog to learn how to renovate older fruit trees from Dr. Kent Mullinix of Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

We had lots to learn and a wonderful apple tree to work with at London Farm.

Here's a bit of what we learned:

Fruit trees, especially apples & pears have a tendency to produce fruit way up high, on the outer edges of the canopy where sunlight reaches the leaves. This creates a virtual "dead zone" in the middle of the tree where sunlight can't get through and where not fruit are produced.

Tree Before
- Lots of big wood and branches that cross over each other

Three reasons to prune mature trees

1. Increase sunlight interception and movement through the canopy. Big wood can intercept a large % of sunlight and does nothing for fruit production.

2. Provide ease of operation - being able to pick lower down and get ladders into the tree.

3. Stimulate new growth

There are primarily two kinds of cuts

Heading cuts - cutting into a stem, usually into new season growth, between nodes which stimulates bud breakage and new growth

Thinning cuts - pruning a branch back to its source which is done primarily to allow more light to come through or to get rid of a branch that is growing in the wrong direction or shading other branches.

Single Leader Pruning

We used this system on the tree at London farm so that each branch had just one leader and the ones left were less vigorous, fruiting branches

Tree after - a big change but one that will stimulate new growth

Tip: Try to make sure no branch is less than 3 ft from the one above or below so that they aren't competing for light.

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