Monday, July 9, 2012

Essential Rules for Fruit Tree Pruning

Words by Brian Coates

Hi and thanks to all you came to enjoy a great pruning day at the community gardens.

Fruit tree pruning is a balancing act of science and art and in particular using the principles of permaculture. Observing and interacting , obtaining a yield, applying self regulation ,and producing no waste. Winter pruning is in fact inseparable from the all season care of the fruit tree.

Rule 1:  Start from the bottom and work to the top. Consider soil health - lots of mulch, no grass and plenty of comfrey growing around the base. A healthy tree resists pests and disease.
Rule 2 : Crown lift to create light and shape. 
Rule 3 : Walk around the tree as you are pruning, because you see a different view all the time.Rule 4 : The 4 D's  -remove dead, dying, diseased and damaged wood. Look for pests and diseases.
Rule 5 : Remove potentially unproductive branches. 
Rule 6 ; Remember that pruning is a balanced act of science and art . You want to create a yield and in order to do that you need to aim at a self regulating system. 
Rule 7 : Reduce the height of the tree by one third. 
Rule 8 : Pruning does not stop here -you need to observe and interact with the tree throughout the seasons ie from the first cycle as mentioned above to budburst when the friuting wood starts to differentiate, to the appearance of fruit  -thin out to avoid overcrowding,  continually do this to avoid heavy broken branches. The ripening of fruit depends upon just the right amount of tension on the branch--not too much, not too little. 
Rule 9 : Recycle and be creative and artistic with your prunings. Dont let the waste pile up--think of ways you can use each pruning as you prune.

The aim is to have a self regulating system whereby you are reducing overall effort and above all create beauty. The following buddhist analogy gives a good summary .
' As when a sturdy potter plies his wheel and labours long and hard to get it turning well, It later spins without his further work and pots are seen to be produced thereon '
Chandrakirti  c. 7th century. 

It would also be good to look at other ways of growing fruit trees in the mountains. A single tree is a monoculture in itself but traditional methods from northern Europe to the high deserts and valleys of Central Asia use hedging of 2-3 varieties. The apple arbor at the gardens is another example.

Please come to an apple  pruning day on the 15th July 10am-2pm.     

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We can harvest a wide range of fruits and nuts locally each season.

Local fruit and/or nut gardeners are invited to make additions or suggest modifications to the following work-in-progress compiled by Lizzie Connor.


Across the mountains: loquat, mulberry, rhubarb, strawberry and (in late spring) raspberry

Best in the lower mountains: avocado, jaboticaba, lemonade


Across the mountains: apricot, blueberry, boysenberry, cherry, currant (red, black, white), gooseberry, kumquat, loganberry, loquat, mulberry,nectarine, peach, plum, raspberry, rhubarb, strawberry and (in late summer) almond, apple, fig, hazelnut, passionfruit, pear (incl. nashi), pomegranate, youngberry

Best in lower mountains:lemon (Eureka), lemonade, lime, mandarin, orange, persimmon (non-astringent) and (in late summer) avocado, babaco, macadamia, rockmelon, wampee, watermelon

Best in upper mountains: jostaberry, lemon (Meyer), persimmon (astringent)


Across the mountains: almond, apple, chestnut, feijoa, fig, grape, hazel, kiwi fruit, kumquat, medlar, olive, passionfruit, pear (incl. nashi), plum, quince, raspberry (some), rhubarb, strawberry, strawberry guava, walnut

Best in lower mountains: avocado, babaco, cherimoya, grapefruit, lemon (Eureka), macademia, monstera deliciosa, orange, pine nut, pistachio, rockmelon, tamarillo, walnut, watermelon, white sapote

Best in upper mountains: lemon (Meyer), mandarin (Satsuma)


Across the mountains: apple, hazelnut, kiwi fruit, kumquat, pear (incl. nashi)

Best in lower mountains: grapefruit, lemon (Eureka), orange, tangelo

Best in upper mountains: avocado (Bacon), lemon (Meyer)