The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Getting a handle on pruning

Before and after shots, pruning and training a young cherry

I've learned the hard way that if our woody perennials aren't taken care of before spring gets underway, they are quickly pushed to the end of the list and lost in the shuffle.  Last year, a third of our raspberries never got pruned, fertilized, or mulched, and as a result their fruits were half the size of the more tended patch.  So, this week we're going to focus on perennials and get them all sorted out and ready to taken on 2010.

I started on Monday by pruning the fruit trees.  In past years, I've spent hours out there, looking back and forth between my trees and the pruning section of my master gardener handbook.  But this year --- my fourth year of pruning --- I suddenly felt empowered and able to make short work of the tree pruning.  It helped that last year's summer pruning and training had left the trees in really good shape, so my "pruning" mostly consisted of retying my training strings a little further out on the branches, with a snip here and there to take out dead wood, watersprouts, or crossing shoots.

I'm also starting to get the hang of the two systems I'm using.  I'm training our peaches and nectarine to the open center system and our plum, cherry (pictured at the top of the page), apples, and pears to the central leader system.  I still don't know if my pruning method is right, but at least it's starting to become consistent from year to year.

Check out our homemade chicken waterer which also works great for ducks, turkeys, and other poultry.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I haven't yet had much to prune, as we landed on an open pasture and all of our trees are still quite small-- and some maybe even dead from the horrible winter we had-- though the figs have been resilient in the past. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading your experiences with pruning. This is our second year on the homestead and when you describe the tentative process you've gone through in learning these techniques, I can totally relate. Everything I do around here is done with a big question mark and a lot of reading beforehand.

It's nice to hear that you're getting more comfortable with it. This is something I've been thinking about and will have to tackle soon, I'm sure.

Comment by Sara Tue Mar 16 13:41:50 2010
I figured I couldn't be the only one who prunes with her nose in a book. :-) I hope your trees survived! I'll bet they did --- this winter was harsh, but no worse than those a decade or two ago, so as long as they're that old, they should be used to it.
Comment by anna Tue Mar 16 16:19:28 2010

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