Feb 13

Pruning fruit trees and grafting.

I have a single Apple tree on my property. It produces an unknown variety of yellow apple. While I am partial to red apples, the fruit from this tree can be used to make applesauce, it is nothing special. If I had a press I would make apple cider….maybe in the future I will get one. The tree was here on the property when I arrived. There were other trees, a peach, plum and another apple, but they were disease ridden and I decided to just cut them down and burn the wood to prevent the spread of disease to the one healthy tree.

Keeping deer away from the vegetable garden and fruit trees is a big problem in this part of the country. To deter the deer from eating my apples I have trimmed all lower branches to make it less tempting for them. The more determined deer are occasionally seen standing on their hind legs to fetch low hanging fruit!

Pruning is an important part of maintaining any tree but especially a fruit tree. Pruning helps to keep fruit from being damaged by excessive crowding and lack of air circulation. Pruning also helps the tree to produce more regularly than a tree left to grow without pruning.

Here is a picture of my apple tree in Winter.apple tree in dormancyAt this stage, I have completed most of the pruning. The very top branches still need to be rounded off to force the growth downward and out. This time of year is when trees are dormant. Pruning is best done during dormancy to avoid stunting the natural growth and production of fruit.

After pruning-after pruning

Tools needed to prune a tree are; a pruning saw and pruning shears. A ladder sufficient to reach the top of the tree. My ladder is not suitable to reach the top of my tree, so I improvise. Next year, I will buy a new ladder. For now, I climb into the tree and work my way around by trimming as best I can reach. This is not the preferred method for pruning a tree and in fact, it can be dangerous. Please don’t try it on your own! The better way is to buy a pole pruning tool to reach those high branches. I bought a small version of the pole pruning tool, but I still had to climb into the tree because my ladder is just not tall enough.

ladder and pole pruning tool

I needed to update my equipment, because last season, when I was pruning the fir trees, I snapped a saw blade. old and new pruning saw

I purchased a new saw from a company in Portland, Oregon called PNE Tools. They have a great selection of pruning and gardening tools and their customer service is exceptional! With the help of their customer service rep, I was able to locate a source for replacement blades too.

Grafting is a technique whereby a cutting from one tree is attached to another. Using this method, I can add one or more varieties of apple to the established tree thereby allowing the one tree to host multiple varieties! Here is a very good video to show one method of grafting. Grafting different types of apples to a single established apple tree will provide variety. This is another project I am working on during the winter months.

Picture of scion.scion Feb 2013

After speaking with my neighbor, I have taken scion from three of his trees. Collecting scion during dormancy is the first step to prepare for grafting. The dormant cuttings will last several weeks if stored in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. I selected 3 pieces each from 3 different varieties of apple; Cortland. a Granny Smith and a Macintosh. If you follow the links for each of these apple varieties, you will see that the Cortland was originally developed in New York State, the Granny Smith comes from Australia and the Macintosh originated in Canada.

I will complete the process of grafting the scion onto my apple tree in late February or early March. It is important to coordinate the grafting process with the onset of budding as the tree begins to come out of dormancy. This will help to improve the likelihood of success. It is exciting to know that I can have such a great variety of apples all growing on the same tree stock! Let’s hope the grafts take.

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    • Diane on February 13, 2013 at 5:19 pm
    • Reply

    Very interesting article. I hope you will be able to keep us up to date during the year and let us see the grafts to find out if they grow. How long to wait before they give you some apples if successful?

  1. Be sure to update us and let us know if that grafts take. Good to see you did a few of each variety, so hopefully at least one of each eventually produces fruit.

    1. Thanks for reading my blog.
      The good news is that it appears two of the Cortland and two of McIntosh grafts have taken. Unfortunately, the Granny Smith’s did not take hold. It was my first attempt at grafting so, I can always try again next year. The tree looks healthy and next year I intend to prune the top again to make it a little more manageable for picking.

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