Published by Estelle Hermans le on Thursday, May 11, 2017
Pruning apple trees
It is in May that the apple blossoms perfume the air with their delicate smell. Did you know that pear trees bloom at the end of May, just like apple trees? To the Vergers Petit and Fils, it is also the moment when we refresh our apple trees! This step is necessary for the growth and good yield of our fruit trees. As you probably do with your shrubs and rose bushes at home, pruning is a crucial step in orchard production.
What's the use of pruning ?
The pruning is use to remove the new undesirable shoots. The process consists mainly of the limitation of the vegetative development of the tree, in favor of its fruiting. The advantages to performing a pruning are many. This first optimizes the fruit production, because the tree manages better its energy, which is dedicated to the growth of the plant. Pruning also affects the shape the tree will take. By limiting the height of the branches, the tree grows rather in width. The fruits produced are then more accessible all round the tree, rather than in its crown only. This greatly facilitates the picking of apples for our visitors!
The pruning of the apple trees also helps to aerate the heart of the tree, ie to remove the branches located in its center. The air circulates better, which reduces the risk of diseases that the apple tree could contract. Finally, the pruning of the apple trees allows to control the variations of production from one year to the next. We thus ensure a consistency in the quantity of apples produced at the Vergers Petit et Fils.
When to prune apple trees?
The prune of apple trees is a biennial event. The summer prune, also called "prune in green", is practiced on non-lignified woods. This means that the shoots have not yet modified their structure to become a more solid wooden state. When the summer prune is done, the new shoots are still in a juvenile state, which is called "green". This process of transformation, unique to all trees and shrubs, is called lignification.
Winter pruning, on the other hand, is a bit like the big household. This prune is also called "dormant prune", since it occurs at a time when the tree is not growing. It takes place on the lignified branches, and therefore on the green shoots that became wood, during the previous summer. The best period for dormant pruning is the end of the winter, as the wounds caused by pruning are thus less exposed to winter weather. This limits the risk of infections that the tree could contract.
The techniques of size
The size is mainly achieved using two tools: a saw with a diameter of more than 1.5 cm and a pruning shears. The blade of the pruning shears must be placed on the side of the branch that will remain on the shaft, while the counterblade must face the part that will be removed. The cutting must always be done in a bevel, ie with an oblique angle. This favors the upcoming growth period of the industry.
The idea is first of all to keep the central axis of the apple tree. The central axis is called the "scion". We will seek a branch in the center of the tree and in a similar angle to the latter, in order to prolong the trunk growth. This causes the tree to gain a little more height when it grows. The size of the scion is usually carried out during the first year of cutting. The results of a size usually only appear three years after the first cut.
The second step is then to retain the other branches that grow in a 45-degree angle. The branches that grow vertically and horizontally are therefore eliminated. This technique is called "pruning". Pruning first shortens the branches of the tree, encouraging it to produce fruits rather than grow. The more fruits are located near a carpenter branch, the more they will benefit from the sap of the tree. The apples will then be bigger and tasty. We must therefore try to produce fruit as close as possible to the trunk, since the carpenter branches are in fact bifurcations of the trunk. These are the branches that are directly attached to the trunk. The trunk and the carpenter branches together form the frame of the tree.
The carpenter branches therefore act as principal branches. It is then necessary to prune the secondary branches, attached to the carpenter branches. These branches can sometimes become too long and very leafy. These branches therefore use unnecessarily the sap produced by the tree. In addition, the apples that grow there are more likely to break the branch under the weight of the fruit.
That's why you have to prune them. All in all, the size favors the growth of branches strong and short, which produce the best fruits. The size is realized as long as the apple has not reached its general equilibrium, or after 5 to 15 years of cuts.
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Written by Fanny Champagne