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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fall Leaves or Leaf Fall - Pruning Conundrum

Dear Folks,

One of the things that is both amusing and frustrating to Deane is pruning the deciduous trees.

But first make sure you take precautions with the coming hard frost here in the valley.  See my google letter to readers for tips and information.

Click here.

Back to pruning the trees.  The key to pruning the trees is first you look for all the leaves to fall which indicates the sap has stop running and you want to get the pruning done before the new flower-future fruit buds form.  Except here in the valley where you are supposed to go out and talk to the trees and find out when they are going to drop their leaves.

The fig tree after a cool couple of nights and days decided around December 7th to drop all of its leaves in 3 days!  Sitting in the little outdoor breakfast nook, I commented that we needed to eat in a hurry so we would not be buried in the leaves.

The peaches and the apricots, on the other hand, like to hang on to all of their leaves, or at least most of them well into mid to late December or even January all the while happily putting out new flower buds.

The thought of cutting off all of that potential fruit is enough to make an rancher/orchardist like Deane cry, but as we lost 3 trees this year, most likely to old age, a deep pruning was called for and he girded his loins (actually getting into old sweats) and proceeded to remonstrate the trees for clues on the best branches to take off.

The result was a pruned tree still holding onto its leaves!

Oh and all that pruned wood?  The trailer ready to go to the landfill where they transform the branches and twigs into mulch was a masterpiece worthy of a peasant of good sturdy stock and his hard work.

Tips For Pruning:

1) Most pruning of stone fruit trees should be completed before the first of the year, so as to minimize cutting out potential fruit.
2) Most experts recommend a 'vase' shaped configuration, removing crossing branches and opening the center of the trees to allow maximum air flow and light.
3) Citrus while evergreen can occasionally use a pruning, mostly to remove dead limbs, HOWEVER, many commercial citrus growers will allow dead limbs - if not a safety issue, to stay on the tree to support fruit-bearing branches.  Prune Citrus before late January/early February flowering.
4) When pruning try for a downward facing cut so that rain and moisture cannot collect on the cut edges.

Fruit Thinning:

It is a bit early for this tip but you should have the information handy.  The reality of thinning stone fruits is while it seems wasteful to pick off every 2 or 3 young fruit, you will protect the tree in the long run.  We have once or twice not gotten the fruit thinned and the result was broken branches from the weight of all the moisture ladened fruit.  Also the resulting fruit is very small.

The general recommendation is about 6 inches between remaining fruit.  If that is too much for you to deal with, try picking out all but 1 peach out of each cluster,  but do watch the weight of the branches. It is not uncommon to see heavy branches supported with a 2 by 4.

Have a safe and Happy New Year, keep warm, take care of the plants, family and pets, and I will have more information to you next year!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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