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The first round of summer pruning

Immature apple

Branching at the top of a treeEven though I really should be weeding and mulching, I'm stealing a bit of time this week to spend pruning and training the perennials.  The high-density apple planting, especially, needs frequent TLC during the growing season so I can channel the trees' energy in just the direction I want, ensuring very early fruiting rather than years spent on vegetative growth only.  In fact, we would have enjoyed a pretty good harvest this year, I suspect, if we hadn't been faced with a late, hard freeze that wiped out nearly every flower.

The only pruning I did in the high-density planting over the winter consisted of cutting off the tops of most of the trees.  This is the same thing you want to do with one-year-old whips to promote branching, and as you can see from the photo to the right, the tops of the trees do branch out the next spring just as you'd expect.  What you probably can't see is the pieces of twine I have holding down all but one of the branches, turning them into near-horizontal scaffolds instead of letting them fight over becoming the central leader.

Summer pruned trees and vines

In addition to bending branches way down, I did head back a few branches that were reaching into other trees' territory.  With high-density plantings, the goal is to cut off as little wood as possible, but if you absolutely have to cut, summer is a better time than winter since a summer cut will be much less likely to promote vigorous vegetative growth.

Loopy appleTo the left, you can see the dwarf apple that I've named my loopy tree since I tied its copious watersprouts into loops last summer.  After spending the better part of a decade without a bloom, my loops tempted the tree to put out quite a show this spring, and a few fruits even missed the hard freeze and seem to be sticking to their twigs.

Although my loops did promote fruiting, in retrospect, I see that they weren't the brightest idea because they resulted in branches coming away from the trunk nearly vertically, which will be weak spots as the tree matures.  With a dwarf, though, it's probably not such a big deal since I won't let those branches get very long anyway.

My job with the loopy tree this week consisted of untying the existing loops and tying some new loops to make sure all of the branches were pointing down.  I hope the effort will be repaid with many apples from this tree in 2016, barring another hard spring freeze.


Not pictured are the blackberries and black raspberries, in which I left the fruiting stalks (of course), but otherwise pruned each plant down to one main stem.  Then I snipped the tops off each of those primocanes to promote branching, which will ensure plenty of spots for flowers on next year's plants.

If you look carefully, you'll notice that I have pictured the hardy kiwis in this post, where I cut the most vigorous vines way back and removed all vines coming up from the base.  Still to come on the summer-pruning agenda is our non-dwarf trees and thinning the red raspberry canes.  But those plants won't be too pissed off at me if I get engrossed in other garden tasks and forget about them, so they're on the bottom of my list.  Back to weeding!



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