The trees in the community orchard came out of dormancy and are once again growing well in their second year. This year, we will be trimming branches and starting to train the branches so that they have well- spaced limbs to be able to carry the load of apples in the future. These first few years of letting the apple trees establish themselves, and guiding the branches to the correct angles will help them have a long productive life for the community. On Sunday, May 1, K-State Research and Extension will host a fruit tree trimming class from 1-3 at the community orchard location in Brit Spaugh Zoo. Candice Fitch-Deitz, Golden Prairie District Horticulture agent will be here to teach the community the differences in trimming fruit trees for production compared to shade trees. Come out and help your community by taking care of the young trees so that they are productive for many years to come. If you have your own hand trimmers, feel free to bring them. We hope to see you there!
For this week, I thought I would share a short piece about pruning fruit trees to give an overview of what we will be learning on May 1st.
Young fruit trees should be pruned to begin developing a strong structure of the main or scaffold limbs. This will help prevent limb breakage over the years when the scaffolds carry a heavy fruit load. Apple, apricot, cherry, plum and pear trees generally are trained using the central leader system. The growth pattern for these trees is for a center branch to be dominant and to grow straight up. Peach and nectarine trees are normally pruned using the open center method because they do not have a strong tendency for one shoot or branch to dominate the growth of other shoots or branches. In this system, the tree is pruned to a vase-like pattern with no central leader. Regardless of the system used, the three to four scaffold branches should:
• Be no lower than 18 inches from the ground. This makes it easier to prune and harvest the tree once it matures.
• Form wide angles (about 60 to 80 degrees) with the trunk. Wide angles are much stronger than narrow angles and are less likely to break under wind or ice loads.
• Be distributed on different sides of the tree for good balance.
• Be spaced about 6 to 10 inches apart on the trunk with no branch directly opposite or below another. (Ward Upham)
Alicia Boor is the Agriculture and Natural Resources agent for Barton County K-state Research and Extension. One can contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 620-793-1910