Pruning apple trees can be very similar to pruning any type of fruit tree in terms of fruit tree structure – but when it comes to timing, apple trees may have their own needs.
And so, when three key volunteers of The Ben Nobleman Park Community Orchard spent time in the park this weekend, our apple trees were high up in our list of priorities.
As I teach in my online fruit tree pruning workshop, timing make a big difference when you’re pruning.
While winter pruning gives slow-growing trees like apple trees a burst of energy so that they will grow quicker and produce more fruit, summer pruning works best with vigorous trees like cherries and plums that quickly grow too big and become hard to handle.
And so, on this damp, cool day in March, Susan, Giselle and Stacey tackled our community orchard’s beautiful young apple trees, using our skills to create a strong fruit bearing structure for each tree.
In addition to pruning apple trees, we pondered how to weigh down some of their branches. Apple trees produce better on vertical branches and some of the branches naturally tried to reach for the sky.
Because we grow our fruit trees in a park, we have limited tools we can use. Weights and strings can be tricky as children may come and move them and toss them around. But then Stacey came up with a brilliant solution.
Our park visitors are familiar with Orchard Sox, which we use to protect the growing fruit from insect damage during the growing season. She suggested we put small rocks in some orchard sox and tie those on to the branches that we want to weigh down.
It worked! Now we have a new use for Orchard Sox and a new way to boost tree productivity.
Coming up later in the season is summer pruning where we will tackle our larger trees including the cherries, apricots and plum.
Susan Poizner is the coordinator of The Ben Nobleman Park Community Orchard in Toronto, Canada and she teaches fruit tree care skills to new orchardists around North America. Susan is the author of the award-winning fruit tree care book Growing Urban Orchards and the creator of the Fruit Tree Care Training Website at OrchardPeople.com. Susan is also the host of The Urban Forestry Radio Show and Podcast which covers fruit trees, food forests, permaculture and arboriculture.