Friday, 5 February 2010

Winter Pruning

It's oh-so-quiet in the ciderhouse. Fermentation seems to have all-but finished, and I'll need to think about racking off the rest of the ciders in a week or two. Meanwhile, I've used the welcome break to Winter Prune the cider apple trees.

Those Tremlett's Bitter trees which escaped Rosy Apple Aphid damage have put on a lot of, mostly upright, growth. The leaders in particular have rocketed skywards, and the main job here is to tip back this new growth by around half, remove the 2nd and 3rd buds down from the tip, and hope this will encourage a few more lateral branches to break further down the stem. The distorted growth on the tree which was attacked by aphid has been removed completely. Even if these stunted and twisted shoots recover and put on good growth this year, there will always be a weak point near the trunk which could snap in years to come. I'm also concerned that the Aphids could have introduced a viral infection into the shoots, so all-in-all, best removed and hope for better results this year.

The rest of the orchard needed little more than a minor snip here, and the total removal of a branch or two there, all in the pursuit of evenly spaced branches up the tree. Winter pruning is an ideal time to look for problems with tree shape and possible incidents of disease. The pics above show an obvious crossing branch which needed removal, and the tell-tale flaky bark of a possible fungal disease, which also needed cutting right out. Once again there's a lot of upright growth to deal with, and I'll be looking to tie down a lot of branches to a more fruitful level in the Spring.

A nice bonus from pruning this (mostly) young growth is the plentiful supply of 'scion wood' we now have, bagged up and ready to take to the 2nd National Apple Scion Wood Exchange at Buckingham Nurseries. We have Dabinett, Harry Masters' Jersey, Tremlett's Bitter and Yarlington Mill to take along, and hope to bring back...well something rare and interesting for grafting onto the rootstock we have on order.

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