It was freezing!! But, as this is the time of year to prune fruit trees, it was good experience.
This is Dr. Wes Autio, a specialist in fruit trees. He is a professor at UMass and was our instructor today:
One of the first things we learned is that a true horticulturist only uses the best quality tools. That goes for aspiring horticulturists like myself. Hmm. Guess my OSJL tools don't count. I didn't dare take them out of the car!
Wes suggests buying our tools from Oesco (Orchard Equipment Supply Company) because they have the best tools available, and because they are a local company (Conway, MA). I picked up one of their catalogues when I went to the blueberry pruning seminar last month. The tools needed for proper pruning are hand-pruners, loppers and pruning saws. Some of the brands Wes highly recommends are Felco, Barnel, Pica (hand-pruners) and Silky (saws).
In this picture, he is demonstrating how to sharpen tools. In his right hand is a sharpener (diamond stone, "medium"). You are only supposed to sharpen the beveled side. Run the sharpener along the bevel, against the cut itself, then turn the blade over to clean the bur (deburring) by rubbing the sharpener flat against it.
Also, it is recommended that you oil the tools with a light oil and keep them clean, either with water or WD-40 (I actually discovered that we have a can of this in the basement!). Wes says he doesn't worry too much about disinfecting the tools, and says that it is not necessary unless you've been working with plants that are diseased.
Now, for the apple trees!
I can just picture this place when the trees are in bloom!!
We were all given a bookmark/factsheet about apple tree pruning and training:
- Sunlight turns buds into fruit buds.
- Training and pruning should maximize sunlight in the tree.
- Shade is your enemy - All parts of the tree should receive sunlight.
- Pruning Stimulates new shoots which will produce fruit buds the following year and bear fruit the next year.
- Remove 2 or 3 of the largest limbs in the top two-thirds of the tree.
- Use the 2-1 rule (diameter-based pruning). Remove any scaffold branch or limb that is half the diameter or larger than the central leader. A branch of this size chokes out the leader, not allowing the tree to reach optimal fruiting capacity. Use bevel cuts to remove these limbs.
- Avoid heading cuts - remove the entire limb instead.
- Avoid complex branches in the lower one-third of the tree. As branches on lateral limbs get older they develop additional branches. This is what we call a complex branch. Leave the smaller pencil thick fruiting shoots.
- Remove downward hanging branches.
- Remove shoots that are growing straight up.
- Leave one shoot as a central leader - do not prune it.