Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pruning Apple Trees

In my nursery catalog that came the other day I found their section of apple trees.  Gramps had always talked about Wolf River apples, I thought it had been a nickname.  Lo and behold, in the catalog was a Wolf River-1881 apple tree.  It turns out Wolf River apples are so named because their variety originated in Wolf River, Wisconsin in 1881.  I was excited to know at least one of the fruit tree varieties we have here.  Overall, there are three or four apple trees, one pear tree, and one peach tree on the farm.  I have no idea why a peach tree, I would think a peach tree wouldn't do well here in the cold Midwest.

Gramps passed away in 1999 so I know the trees have been ignored for at least 10 years, probably more.  While looking in the shed for some tools I found a container of fruit tree pesticide with a date in Gramps' handwriting; it said 1994.  That would explain all of my trees producing so poorly; they haven't been cared for in over 15 years.

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part of it is finished
When we moved to the farm I started researching how to care for the fruit trees and various bushes.  A site put out by the Ohio State University gave great instructions for pruning fruit trees.  The key is to prune a fruit tree during the winter so that the tree is dormant.  If the tree was pruned during the growing season the tree would spend its energy on the area where it had been pruned, instead of on producing fruit.
I put on my overalls, they are quickly becoming my favorite,  my hiking boots (I have not found another pair of boots that are better), grabbed my hat and work gloves and headed for the trees.  I have a bow saw and pruning clippers that I use when I am trimming or pruning plants and trees.  I could use a chain saw, but that doesn't allow for quite the control I want.
I stood looking at the tree deciding where to start.  I knew once I began there would be no way to un-cut a branch.  The tree had a lot of branches that looked more like brambles than anything else. 
I looked for dead branches, branches that rubbed on another branch, and branches that interfered with one another's growth.  If a branch fit those categories it was as good as gone.
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Another view of the pruned apple tree
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The other apple trees 
By the time I was done I was covered in sawdust.  The tree already looks healthier than before, I am hoping it will produce even a dozen good apples next year.  Now, onto the other trees...

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