- Fall pruning goals
- What tool is needed
- Features of weather conditions and long-term cycle
- Young and old, sick and healthy
- Thinning and lightening of the crown
- Pruning vegetative shoots
- How to handle slices
For a garden to be healthy and produce a good harvest, it needs regular maintenance. In autumn, when the movement of sap in the trees slows down, the crowns of apple and pear trees must be thinned out, otherwise the old branches will take away strength from new, more fertile shoots. Today we’ll talk about how to properly perform autumn pruning of fruit trees.
Fall pruning goals
In contrast to pruning after wintering, when the crown is formed with the prospect of a lateral layout, in autumn, so to speak, an architectural and health-improving pruning is carried out. There is much less work to be done in the fall, but if the disturbing branches are removed at this time, this will reduce the load on the tree and allow the vegetation to grow lush in spring..
In autumn, you should not be zealous with pruning thin branches. Multiple wounds are likely to freeze shoots and promising buds. On the contrary: a small number of large cuts will not do much harm, and trees with them will overwinter painlessly. Naturally, provided that the branches are properly processed.
Fall pruning technique is very different for old and young trees. Both the local climate and the general condition of the tree can make their own adjustments. Keep in mind that in autumn it is most profitable to perform not so much pruning as stretching the branches, since after winter frosts they keep the given direction well..
What tool is needed
Since fruit trees are pruned shortly before the onset of cold weather, the risk of damage to healthy branches increases in proportion to the deterioration of the cut quality. If in the spring the oval cuts, even with a creak, are transferred, then before wintering it is allowed to leave only neat rings.
The quality of the instrument is of decisive importance here. At a minimum, you need a good pruner with a sharpened blade, a small, short-toothed garden saw, and possibly a sickle-shaped hacksaw. The quality of pruning is important only for young and healthy branches, you can prune dead wood in any way convenient for you.
Before wintering, all sections with a diameter of more than a centimeter must be specially processed. Stock up in advance with drying oil or garden varnish, shreds of plastic wrap and rings of chamber rubber. You will also need a small amount of natural burlap, cut into strips of 4-5 cm.
Features of weather conditions and long-term cycle
Autumn pruning can be carried out without looking back in the southern regions where there are no sudden temperature changes in winter. The more snow falls in December-January, the better the tree tolerates moderate injury. Many parameters are important, including humidity and wind speed, the possibility of branches icing and other conditions..
Sometimes there is every reason to skip pruning in the fall if you are not sure the tree will winter well. The best way to understand is to talk to more experienced gardeners in the area. If you do not prune in autumn, the work will increase in the spring, especially if the garden is large. The formation of the crown will not occur so quickly, and the appearance of the crop on new shoots will shift a year or two ahead from the usual dates.
Seed breeds (apple, pear) drive lateral shoots on the second or third vegetative buds below the cut. In the first year, the tree throws out side branches that do not bear fruit for obvious reasons. Some varieties can give a modest harvest in the second year, throwing out rare flower buds in the spring. Without pruning in the fall, this is guaranteed not to happen – the tree will spend resources on recuperation.
There is little practical benefit from such a small crop, but its early appearance helps to better assess the correctness of the crown formation and react in time, pinching and brightening the buds for the next spring.
The situation is different with stone fruit trees (apricot, plum). They have a shorter cycle and can eject fruit buds the next year if the climate is favorable. If pruning is carried out in full only in the spring, the beginning of fruiting new shoots will be shifted by a year or even two..
Young and old, sick and healthy
In late summer and early fall, when the garden is being harvested, you have a clear idea of the structure of the tree. In contrast to springtime, when sap flow has not yet begun and the buds are in a frozen state, in autumn it is possible to assess both the density of fruit formation on different groups of branches and the density of their green cover.
After the leaves fall from the tree, branches are immediately cut off, on which there was no greenery or fruits at all, or they were beaten by a bacterial disease. Such urgent measures help to stop the disease and prevent further spread of the infection. Naturally, the cuttings must be carefully collected and burned together with the leaves without preliminary drying..
Next comes a series of dry branches. If no traces of diseases are found on the bark and sections, it is not necessary to burn them, it is better to save them for the barbecue. Note that we are talking only about those branches that the old tree “turns off” itself – they are usually located in the lower skeletal layer and are strongly inclined to the ground. Even if there are young growths at the ends of such branches, it is still better to remove them..
In the fall, there is no need to cut the first-year shoots and shorten the main conductor, it is better to do this in the spring. But now is the time to remove the branches left after the side branches. In parallel, you can prune large branches, the fruiting of which has ended or is coming to an end, if there are promising branches one and two years ago in the higher tiers. Otherwise, it is also better to transfer such pruning to early spring..
Thinning and lightening of the crown
Autumn is the best time to remove the largest neglected branches that grow towards the inside of the crown. Usually, a ten-year-old tree has no more than 3-5 of them, although this depends more on the care of the gardener with previous pruning.
In a place where a normally directed skeletal branch bifurcates and a new shoot changes direction, it is necessary to leave about 40-60 cm, and remove the excess with a hacksaw, waiting for a lateral growth, or, if such does not form, cut off the remaining branch at the very fork next fall.
It is very important to ensure conditions under which the green cover of the branches of the higher tier will not block the sun on the lower branches with the potential for fruiting. To do this, you must first carefully examine the tree, determine the branches directed to the center and those that later strive to clash, and then methodically cut them out. Only after identifying the most important areas, proceed to pruning: in the end, you should remove no more than 5-6 large branches and up to 20-25 small shoots. Larger pruning can negatively affect tree wintering..
1 – pruning branches growing inside the crown; 2 – trimming unnecessary branches; 3 – pruning branches growing through other branches
Pruning vegetative shoots
Typically, vertical competitors are dismissed in the spring immediately after the start of sap flow, when the buds show themselves and the potential direction can be clearly determined. However, the removal of vertical shoots, blocking the light, can be carried out in the fall, if the subsequent direction is not important or the shoot is cut off without further growth prospects.
Usually there are few such branches and they are quite small. It is better to cut them immediately under the base without the formation of hemp. Lateral competitive shoots are cut in the same way if the tree begins to grow the crown too unevenly.
How to handle slices
If the temperature in the next couple of days after pruning is above + 10 ° C, it is better to give the slices time to dry naturally. After the traces of pruning have lost moisture, they must be protected before wintering..
Cover bare wood generously with linseed oil or garden varnish. After that, wrap the cut with a strip of burlap, starting 5-7 cm from the bottom and folding the rest of the tape into a swab directly at the cut.
The main enemy of the wintering cut is moisture, which seeps into the tree and freezes it from the inside, killing the left promising buds. Therefore, the stumps are covered from above with shreds of plastic wrap, which are fixed with rubber rings just so as not to be blown away by the wind. With pruning branches under the base, everything is a little more complicated: the film needs to be tightly wound with tape, starting a little higher from the cut. The rubber ring is folded in half and wrapped around the stem, then one loop is passed into the other, it is well attracted and fixed with a wooden peg.
Of course, not all shoots need such care, but only the largest ones. Branches up to a centimeter thick have time to dry out normally and clog up a short time before the onset of cold weather. If (for various reasons) protection is still necessary, heat-shrinkable cambric or sealed sections of silicone tubes are put on the ends of the branches.