THE HOW AND WHY OF PRUNING

PRUNING, which is the cutting away of unwanted growth, is seen in its simplest form in the annual treatment of summer-fruiting raspberries. When all the fruit has been picked, all the old canes that carried die fruit are cut completely away as near ground level as possible. This can be done during winter, but for the sake of the young canes (which will fruit the following summer) it should be done in August when the last berry has gone.

Removal of these old canes gives the young ones more room to develop. The only pruning needed by the young raspberry canes consists in the cutting off, in late February, of any ends that may

More and Better Fruit.

Left to its own devices any form of fruit tree or bush may become, in time, a mass of congested and unprofitable bend over; the object of this is to enable the canes to carry a weight of fruit without the tops bending still farther. Here we have a rule-o f-thumb method without any com-plications whatever.

In dealing with bush and tree fruits the pruner is met by certain complica-tions. These, however, are smoothed out when the principles of pruning are understood.growths. The fruit it produces will be sparse and of poor quality. The nurseryman who rears the – say – apple plant can conduct pruning operations which will give to it a certain definite shape. If it remains in the nurseryman’s hands for three or four years the purchaser then finds himself in the happy position of owning a well-defined framework which he has but to keep under control to ensure (weather and other circumstances beyond his control permitting) the greatest possible quantity of fruit of the best quality. If the purchaser buys it as a maiden (one year old) he has all the training work to do himself, and must wait that much longer for his fruit; this initial training work is explained in later paragraphs.

Control, by pruning, of the plant’s shape and size includes the encouragement of the production of healthy fruiting wood fully exposed to sun and air; the production of fruit where it can ripen most readily and where it can be most easily got at for gathering; and the removal of damaged, diseased, dead or dying branches or shoots.

Tools for Pruning.

An expert does most of his pruning with a sharp knife. The non-expert will do it most easily, and with less likelihood of damage to himself and the tree, with secateurs. The cut should be made just above (beyond) a wood bud, in a sloping direction, the slope carrying it above the bud; and the latter should point in the direction in which further growth is wanted.

If a sharp knife and not secateurs is used the branch or shoot to be cut should be held below (not above) where the cut is to be made, and the blade should be directed away from the operator – who cannot then cut himself if the knife slips. Torn edges that may remain after the cutting must be trimmed cleanly, or decay may start; and that may mean the death of the bud and the dying back of the shoot.

Growths that are out of reach from the ground should be tackled with the aid of steps or a ladder. Clambering about among branches can result in considerable destruction. The alternative to steps or a ladder is a tree pruner – a cutting device on the end of a long pole, worked by a wire.

For cutting stout branches a saw will be needed. The first cut should be made from below, so that when the branch is sawn through from above it will come away without tearing the bark. If the branch is to be removed to its complete length the cutting should be done as close as the saw can be manoeuvred to the main stem or trunk, so that no stump is left to decay. The cut face should be as nearly upright as possible, and if the saw leaves it other than smooth a knife should be used to finish the job.

Dealing with gooseberries, blackberries and other thorny subjects, . pruning is done with greatest speed and comfort when the hands are protected by stout gloves.

Pruning an Apple.

The cordon-trained apple tree consisting of one stem only is the easiest form of this fruit to prune. It has no branches but bears its fruit on spurs – stumpy side shoots occurring at intervals along the single straight stem. All side shoots arising from spurs or stem have to be cut back each winter to within two buds of their base; and the leader – the extending end of the single stem – is cut back, at the same time, by about one-third of its current season’s growth, until it reaches the desired height, when no further growth is allowed.

The cordon will also be pruned in summer, side shoots then being nipped or cut back to within five leaves of their base. This not only prevents the fruits being shaded but keeps growth within bounds and – of great importance – helps the development of fruit buds at the base of the shortened shoots.

This scheme of summer and winter pruning as outlined for a cordon apple applies also to espalier and fan-trained trees, to the branches of bush and pyramid, and to half-standards and standards in their early years.

Spur Pruning.

Most varieties of apple produce their fruit on spurs, exceptions including Lady Sudeley, Irish Peach and Mr. Gladstone, these latter carrying fruit mostly on the tips of shoots and making only a few spurs; only very light pruning is needed for these, and they are never grown as cordons or espaliers. Otherwise an apple crop depends on the number and health of those stumpy side shoots, which are kept young and vigorous by being cut back when they become long and crowded. A long spur due for revitalizing should be shortened by one-half the first year and cut back to two or three fruit buds at the base the second year. Fruit buds are plumper and more rounded and prominent than wood (or leaf) buds and generally are found at or near the base of shoots. Leaf buds, which extend the wood growth, are slim and pointed.

That distinction must always be borne in mind when pruning.

A further point to watch when dealing with any fruit trees trained against fence or wall is a tendency for some shoots to grow inwards to the support – that is, behind the tree. These should be removed completely as soon as they are noticed.

Shoots tending to grow in towards the centre of round trees – bush, pyramid, half-standard and standard – should be cut away completely, by way of summer pruning if small, during winter if they have become woody.

Non-spur Fruiters. The production of spurs is not, of course, the rule among all kinds of fruit. The sweet cherry carries its fruit on spurs; but the sour varieties of cherry produce their fruit on shoots of the previous year’s growth, as also do the peach, nectarine, apricot, black currant. With these non-spur fruiters the aim is to encourage strong new growths to take the place of shoots that have fruited. As many as possible of the fruited shoots are cut out each year to make way for the new ones that will fruit the following summer. Methods of pruning in such cases are explained fully under names of fruits in the alphabetical section.

Root Pruning. Trees in rich soil sometimes grow far too vigorously and either fail to produce any fruit at all or develop only very little. This over-production of unfruitful wood may result from too hard pruning, buK more often from too rich living.

Where the trouble affects a young tree the rampant growth can be checked by lifting it completely, as soon as possible after the leaves have fallen, and replanting it. A trench should be dug around it, 2 ft. or so from the stem, to the depth of 2 ft., and the spade worked completely under it, all thick roots which anchor it in the ground being cut through. The tree is then lifted right out, with the least possible disturbance to the fibrous roots, and their severed ends cut back cleanly with a sharp knife.

The tree is then replaced in the hole and the soil rammed back around it very firmly.

If the tree is too large for lifting, a trench should be made as already explained and all thick roots cut through with spade, saw or knife – including the central tap-root. The soil is then firmly rammed back.

Spade cuts will need to be made smooth with a sharp knife where it is possible to get at the severed thick roots, and in all cases the knife-cut should incline upwards and outwards; fibrous roots (those which encourage fruiting) produced from the cut ends will then push out in the upper soil, where they are required.

If the tree to be root-pruned is more than about twelve years old, only one half should be dealt with at first, the other half receiving attention the following year. This is to avoid too severe disturbance.

Root-pruned trees not supported against a fence, wall, wires or trellis will need staking after the operation.

Neglected Trees.

Apples, pears, plums or cherries grown as standards are sometimes allowed to get out gathering. Part of the top should of hand, and much of the fruit then be removed, so that the tree is they produce is too high up for reduced to a reasonable height, . upright-growing branches being cut back to where horizontal ones branch out lower down.

At the same time any inward-growing branches should be shortened considerably or removed altogether, And dead or unhealthy wood cut right out. Diseased wood should be burned and not left lying about to spread trouble. Long, useless shoots may crowd the centre; these should be pared off smoothly at their base and the middle of the tree left completely bare.

It may not be possible to make the tree look nicely balanced as to distribution of the remaining branches, but the letting in of light and air should achieve the object – the production of more and better fruit, within convenient reach. If the neglected trees have ceased to bear any fruit at all, or the fruit is of very poor quality, it might be worth while to top-graft them with pieces of a fruitful variety and thus revitalize them; the method is explained in die following section. If the trees are crowded (originally planted too closely) and branches touch or intermingle, their sideways spread should be reduced; or alternate trees be cut down and the roots grubbed out. Shoots arising from the ground around the trees should be removed, not by chopping them off at soil level but by paring them off at their base – the point where each springs from a root. Soil will have to be removed to make this possible. They are taking energy from the tree, which will benefit by their departure.

This general clean up should be completed by spraying with a winter wash. This will free the stems and branches of moss, lichen, and pests in various stages of development.

Pruning Soft Fruits.

By observation the home food producer will become closely acquainted with the habit of growth of different fruiting plants, and whether they carry their crop on old or new wood or on both. Without such knowledge profitable pruning is impossible; with it, no such blunder will be made as, for example, pruning all currants in the same maimer. Black currants carry their best fruit 0:1 new wood, whereas red and white currants produce chiefly on short spurs. on old wood. In pruning black currants the object is to cut away each year ail the old wood that can be in late August or early September, replaced by young shoots that have after the fruit has been picked. grown up from or near die base This cutting away of fruited wood during the same year. This is done each year keeps the black currant bush always young, and in that condition it is at the top of its fruiting form. The old wood is not cut away recklessly, of course, but only where there is strong new growth to replace it.

That habit of growth and fruiting makes the black currant quite unsuitable for training as a cordon. It is necessarily kept to bush form. Whereas red and white currants, though generally grown as bushes, make excellent cordons for planting against a wall or fence or a support in the open – because with this fruit it is the old wood that produces the crop on short spurs. Pruning red and white currant bushes – each consisting of six or seven main branches – is done in both winter and summer. In summer all side shoots (laterals) that are not to be trained up to make additional branches or fill gaps are shortened back to within four or five leaves of their base. That July pruning is followed in winter by more cutting, this time the short-ened side shoots being pruned close back to the fruit buds at the base. The main branches are also shortened to within 6 in. of the base of the same season’s growth. Gooseberries fruit on new growth as well as on spurs on the old wood. Short side shoots give the biggest fruit of the best quality. When dealing with gooseberry bushes, summer pruning consists in shortening the longest new side growths by one-half but leaving the short side growths untouched ( 255, A). In February the summer-shortened side growths are again cut back, to within 1 in. of their base, and the previous summer’s extension growth at the end of each main branch (there should be not more than eight or ten of these) is cut back to within 6 in. of its base.The loganberry fruits on long canes produced the previous season, and pruning consists in cutting out old canes as soon as the fruit has been gathered – exactly as was explained in the case of summer-fruiting raspberries in the first paragraphs of this section.

The blackberry, by way of contrast, will continue fruiting from the old wood (on new side growths which the old wood will produce annually all along its length); but to keep the plants vigorous and 100 per cent profitable as much as possible of the old fruited canes should be cut right away after the berries are gathered and long new canes arising from ground level or close to it trained up to take the place of the old ones. . –

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