Montgomery shares winter pruning tips
Puxsuatwaney Phil’s appearance reminds us every year, it is the time to prune apple trees.
Untended trees produce small fruit and erratically from year to year.
Pruning takes courage and conviction. It is both art and science.
The end result is to have pruned a tree to a more attractive appearance and to have grown larger fruit.
Removing excess growth and blossoms benefits the tree.
An apple tree needs only three to five percent of the blossoms to be pollinated in order to have an abundant crop in the fall.
The best fruit grows exposed to direct sunlight at the end of the branches on three to 10-year-old wood.
If left untended, apple trees will grow unchecked and the interior of the tree, closest to the trunk, will become overgrown with dead branches and crossing limbs.
So, too, the main branches, which are technically known as scaffolding.
The congestion prevents sunlight from entering the tree’s canopy and ripening any fruit growing on interior branches.
This overgrown mass also harbors unwanted pests and l fungal infections.
Older trees, those 50 years older and up, tend to be standard in size, meaning they tend to be 25- to 30-feet tall.
No one but an arborist should attempt to prune these trees.
The most comfortable height for homeowners to prune is in the 8- to 12-foot range.
Trees pruned at those heights are also easy to pick, especially when using an 8- to 12-foot three-legged orchard ladder.
As you set your sights on pruning the tree, keep in mind that re-balancing an untended apple tree takes place over a three-year period.
Dead branches and crossing limbs are pruned out first, then the water spouts along drooping limbs to clean out the interior nearest to the trunk.
The next two years of pruning will further reduce congestion which allows air to freely circulate reducing fungal risk.
For those looking for more technical answers on pruning will find additional information available at The Cornell Co-operative Extension under “Renovating Old Apple Trees.”
Peter Montgomery, owner of Montgomery Gardens, LLC, in Warren, promotes home orcharding, speaks publicly designs and installs heirloom cider orchards, and consults with Spoke and Spy Ciderworks in Middletown. He will speak at “A Seminar on Fruit Trees” at the Litchfield facilities of EdAdvance April 20 and 22 from 6 to 8 p.m.