Well, it is that time of year again. Every February I clean and sharpen the pruning shears and go to work on the trees in our orchard. While I wouldn't consider myself an expert, I've done a lot of reading on the subject over the years, and have become fairly proficient at giving our trees their annual trim job.
There are several reasons to prune: to keep the trees healthy, to control size, and to improve quantity and quality of the fruit. There are lots of techniques and tips for doing the job, my favorite book on the subject is "The Pruning Book" by Lee Reich. Every year I check it out from the library to refresh my mind on what I'm doing, and to learn about how to prune whatever new things I planted the year before.
When it comes to planting trees, my wife will attest that I am somewhat of a fanatic. Every year we've lived on our farm I've planted at least one tree, but often times many more. We started our orchard the second year on the farm. We have twenty-three apple trees, four pear, three apricot, three plum, two cherry, and two peach. The plum, cherry, and peach are new additions in the last couple of years. All the other tree plantings have been ornamental trees, shade trees, and windbreaks. And of course all of these trees need to be pruned!
So yesterday I spent most of the day in our orchard heading-back and thinning out the branches on our fruit trees. Muttering about the rebellious ways that these trees like to grow, anguishing over which branches to take out, and dreaming of large luscious fruit next summer (ok, I am exaggerating a bit on that last point) made for a mentally and physically exhausting day. As you can see by the trailer full of branches, there were lots and lots of branches that met their demise, my hand was aching by the end of it all. Now, all I have left is the another 100 or so of the other trees to prune this week.
All these labors have paid off though. Two years ago we had a nice crop of apricots, last year we got our first pear and had a bumper crop of apples (the picture shows just a portion of the harvest). We look forward to many more years of eating fruit fresh from the tree, the most delicious way on earth.
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