What’s Happening In The Orchard? – March 2019

It is officially Spring 2019. It seems like it has been very slow coming but, this may be the closest to normal that we have seen in a few years. Two years ago, the whole orchard was in bloom at this time, which was too early. This year we will be in bloom during a time that is closer to normal, when that is exactly—time will tell but as of now everything is still dormant.

With everything still dormant, there is still an opportunity to prune your fruit trees. The process of pruning seems to be a daunting task that results in the person performing the pruning holding back. The question is– why do we prune? By following a few basic rules, the task becomes much easier.

So, why do we prune? Ultimately, we prune to promote a quality harvest. We prune to open the tree up to increase sunlight penetration. Sunlight converts the carbohydrates in the fruit to the sweet sugar that we love. We prune to remove less productive wood. A fruit tree has growth that can tend to be very unproductive and drains the tree of nutrients that could be used in more productive parts of the tree. Downward-growing and interior branches tend to be unproductive wood that should be removed.

We prune to create a stable and efficient shaped tree. This means we are pruning to create a physically strong, healthy tree. Removing narrow crotches that tend to break out with a fruit load and strong winds. Also, removing damaged or rubbing branches that tend to weaken with time. By eliminating potential threats, we increase the overall health of the tree.

We prune to enhance fruit quality through increased fruit size, uniform ripening, and increased sugar content. Pruning actually acts as a thinning process by removing potential fruit found on the branches being trimmed out. Reducing the fruit number through pruning gives the remaining fruit the opportunity to become larger and sweeter.

Pruning also helps decrease disease and insect problems by allowing better spray coverage if a prevention program is in place. By opening the tree up, you facilitate quicker drying of the leaves and branches through increased sunlight penetration and air movement through the tree. Removing surface moisture from the disease equation means you have a reduced possibility the disease will occur.

Finally, pruning allows for easier access to the fruit when harvesting. Less branches to maneuver around means less opportunity for the fruit to be damaged once it has been harvested.

These simple guidelines will help you make the decisions you need to make to get your fruit tree pruned and into shape for the 2019 season.

Once again, I would also like to take this opportunity to invite everyone out to visit Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard. We strive to make it a new experience each time you visit us. We guarantee that there is always something new to learn or see at Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard.

Vaughn Hammond –Orchard Operations and Education Team Leader

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