European Pear


Summer Grafting Get-Together

When: July 12th
Time: 9:00am to 11:00 am approx.
Where: At Road’s End Farm
What: An informal class on using T-Budding and Chip Budding techniques for warm weather grafting of fruit trees.
This is an informal, outdoors, hands on group setting to learn how to use these styles of grafting to propagate fruit trees.
Why: To save grandma’s heirloom peach tree, to get an exact replica of that “perfect plum” you don’t know the name of, to make a “fruit cocktail tree” with multiple types of fruit on one tree. Or just for fun!

Bud GraftWe will be focusing on Pear, Peach, Plum and Apricot and we expect to have another event in late August on Apples. RSVP is a must and seating is very limited for this one. Send an email to reserve your spot to NMFruitGrowers@aol.com and you will be selected in the order received. Again this is not a demonstration, it is a hands on, get dirty, you will graft some trees, event!
There is no tuition cost on this class to the selected participants. We ask you bring your own very sharp pocket knife or a box cutter type knife, water, hat etc. Dress for the weather. We will supply all other items. You can collect budwood from our orchard or bring your own. We will ask for how many rootstock you will need and these we will charge $4.00 each (our cost) as a potted plant. We will send instructions on collecting and saving your own budwood.

Last Saturday we held our Fruit Tree Pruning and Training Workshop.  Despite the cold weather and somewhat windy conditions we had a great turnout.  Everybody dressed warm and brought gloves for the task.  On the rare times when the sun came out for a few minutes, it was perfect weather! First we discussed the proper tools.  Shears, loppers and saws along with benefits and uses for each with brand preferences. We had a great variety of trees to work with, from first year planted trees, 2 year and all the way up to bearing trees.  We were able to work with Apricot, Almond, Apple, Cherries, Pears, Asian Pears, Plums and Peaches. With 150 plus trees there was something for everyone.

We discussed and demonstrated vase style for the Stone fruits. We went over the latest in cherry pruning “the Spanish Style” and demonstrated with the different methods for Apricots.  With Peaches the norm is vase shape, but we showed the newer “Y” method which forms the tree with just 2 scaffold branches and all fruiting limbs are grown off these. This gives great sun and air circulation, but also allows for closer spacing than usual at 6 feet apart in the row.  With Apples we did Vase and Modified Central Leader styles of pruning.  We also got to work and show how to bring back trees to a central leader that have gotten away from you in the past from either lack of pruning or incorrect pruning.

Pear before Pruning

Pear before Pruning

Pear after pruning with branch spreaders installed

Pear after pruning with branch spreaders installed

Pears, especially European have a normal tendency to upright growth which limits fruit production.  We showed how and where to remove along with branch spreading techniques.  The more horizontal a branch is the more fruit it will give.  The goal is to try for 45  to 60 degree angle to give good crotch strength and highest production.  Some plums are also notorious for upright growth and we were able to see bud development differences with vertical versus more lateral growth.

We were able to work with some new, planted last year, trees to show how to get them off to a good start and also 2 year olds and their training.  The differences between heading and thinning cuts provided for some good learning.  But there is more to growing a good tree than just pruning. The training portion covered how to develop proper crotch angle using various types of trellising, branch spreaders, tying, staking and many other options based on the situation.

Pruning and training fruit trees is as much art as science. There are lots of different methods depending on your unique situation and it is a difficult thing to learn from a book.  The hands-on experience was the best part since everyone got to try as much as they needed or wanted to learn and feel comfortable in pruning their own trees.  All in all it was a great experience and an enjoyable time with the crowd that came. The only drawbacks were we didn’t get enough pictures and we needed more coffee and hot chocolate.  Good things all to remember for next year!

Using clothespins to direct new growth

Using clothespins to direct new growth

It’s not too late to get your dormant pruning done
As fruit trees mature, they must undergo two pruning phases. When the tree is young, the first phase consists of cuts to select the primary scaffold and heading and thinning cuts to create the secondary scaffold. In trees over 5 years old, the second phase begins, in which fruiting wood is maintained and renewed by thinning and heading fruiting and non-fruiting wood. Thinning cuts refer to the complete removal of branches and are applied to promote space for aeration, light penetration and fruit maturation. Heading cuts refer to the removal of portions of branches and are applied to force and direct branching and spur development and to restrict overall size of the tree.
In both phases, general pruning principles apply. First, remove all dead, dying and diseased wood. Second, remove all branches and limbs that grow toward the center of the tree. This promotes aeration and light penetration to the fruiting wood. Third, thin branches and limbs that cross or touch so that abrasions do not develop. Finally, remove any suckers growing off the rootstock above or below the ground.
You will find that heavy pruning encourages the formation of water sprouts and vegetative growth at the expense of fruiting woods. Light pruning, on the other hand, encourages heavy fruit set which results in smaller fruit of poorer quality and possible broken branches. Since home growers must also keep trees to manageable sizes, strive for a balance between heavy pruning and renewing fruiting wood.
In order to achieve this, you should know where your tree bears its fruit.
ALMONDS produce on spurs that remain productive for up to 5 years. Remove water sprouts and head and thin as necessary. As the tree matures, remove older, unproductive spurs to generate new spur growth.
APPLES produce fruiting spurs on wood 2 years and older that are productive for 6 to 10 years. Thin out branches to admit sufficient light to all parts of the tree; this will encourage new spurs to develop. Remove older, unproductive spurs as the tree matures. You may also need to thin spurs. Up to two-thirds new growth can be cut back annually.
APRICOTS bear the bulk of their fruit on 2 year old wood. All new growth can be cut back approximately by two-thirds. This wood will grow fruit spurs the second year and produce fruit the third year.
CHERRIES are borne on long-lived spurs that are productive for 10 to 12 years. When trees are young, head back main limbs one-third to create branching. Continue heading to create more branching and thus, more spurs. Because spurs are long-lived, thinning cuts tend to predominate pruning in phase two.
FIGS produce fruit on 1 year old wood and the upcoming season’s growth. They require little specialized pruning; head back to keep tree to manageable size and thin to keep aerated.
PEACHES AND NECTARINES produce fruit on last year’s growth. Remove about 50 percent of current season’s growth annually. On younger trees prune whips back to 12 to 24 inches. Use thinning cuts to promote aeration.
PEARS bear fruit on spurs on 3 to 10 year old wood. Main limbs are usually headed each year and side limbs are lightly headed or left unheaded, producing spurs and fruit in future years. As in apples, remove older, unproductive spurs and thin middle-aged spurs. Up to two-thirds new growth can be cut back annually.
PERSIMMONS bear on the current season’s shoots. Pruning consists of thinning shoots to promote growth for next season’s crop and heading cuts to keep fruit within reach.
JAPANESE PLUMS AND ITALIAN PLUMS (PRUNES) bear on fruit spurs which live 5 to 8 years. For varieties that bear heavy crops, remove one-half of the shoots each year. Other varieties, like Santa Rosa, bear moderate to light crops so remove only one-quarter of the shoots.
WALNUTS produce fruit on spurs on 5 year old wood that remains productive for up to 15 years. For the mature tree, a pruning program can consist of applying the general pruning principles described above.

SUMMER PRUNING assists home orchardists with the goal of keeping trees to manageable sizes. Typically, the whip emerging from dormant season heading cuts are themselves headed and thinned in August or after fruit harvest. By removing this growth, you remove leaves which would otherwise generate food for the tree and thus, vegetative growth. Since most rootstocks, even those labeled ‘semi-dwarf,’ are primarily developed for soil and climate adaptation, pest and disease resistance and early bearing, controlling the size of the tree becomes the home orchardist’s responsibility. Many trees, especially Apple, Pear, Apricot, Peach, Nectarine, Persimmon, Fig, and Plum trees, can be kept to 10 to 12 feet utilizing summer pruning. Trees this size are more easily sprayed, pruned in winter.

fruit_tree_pruning

is probably the most asked question we get.  One of the major reasons is due to our erratic spring freezes.  Depending on where the fruit bud is in its stage of development it can withstand as low as 10 degrees or may freeze at 29f.  Knowing the development stage and the allowable temperature will tell you what actions to take to try to prevent or minimize a crop loss.  The problem in the past has been knowing what the verbally described stage of development is.

apple blossom developmentThe other day I ran across this webpage that is  simple and spells (shows pictures) it out for us for each tree fruit.  It shows the temperature that will give a 10% loss at the particular stage of developments as well as the temperature that will induce a 90% or greater loss.

Take a few minutes to look at this simple webpage and then keep it bookmarked for future reference.

http://www.hrt.msu.edu/faculty/langg/Fruit_Bud_Hardiness.html

 

 


This year’s grafting is finally complete.  We ended up grafting about 280 new little trees.  This is exciting because it allows us to grow and evaluate many antique or rare varieties we normally would not have available.  Names like Bell-De Boskoop, Karmije De Sonnaville and Caville Blanc D’hiver evoke thoughts of the faraway countries and places they came from.   Chenago Strawberry, Pitmaston Pineapple and Apricot on the other hand are intriguing because their flavor is reminiscent of a different fruit than apples.  Williams Pride and Westfield Seek No Further are obviously just the best there is.

This season we are doing things a little different. We bench grafted this scion wood to both semi-dwarf and full dwarf rootstock so we could offer a variety to those wanting smaller trees.  After grafting we planted into 3”x 3” x 8” tree pots and will grow them indoors until all frost is past.  At that point we will transplant and grow them for probably 2 years in the field. The first winter the whips will be pruned back to encourage branching and the second winter

Starting grafted trees in 3″ x 3″ x 8″ tree posts

the trunk and branches will be cut back again.  By the second summer, 2014, they should be ready to go to new locations.  About 45% were new types of apples and the rest were from the ones we have growing.  This picture shows a few in tree pots starting to leaf out

We also grafted sweet Cherries, about 8 types, European pears 6 kinds and European plums 6 kinds.  Earlier we had grafted about 14 new jujubes.  Matt is getting to be fast at bench grafting and with Connie and myself wrapping the grafting tape and labeling the varieties we have worked out a pretty good and simple system. All in all it was a fun and worthwhile springtime project

 It is funny to see a little 10″ tree with blooms on it! 

Some 10″ grafted trees blooming!

 Training goes hand in hand with pruning to develop a stronger and more productive tree.  One of our goals is to develop healthy crotch angles between the scaffold branches and the trunk.  A narrow angle of less than 45 degrees is much weaker and susceptible to damage from winds, snow or heavy fruit loads.  The narrower it is, the weaker it is.  Sometimes these narrow angles will spit some leaving a possible entry site for infection. 

Many apple varieties are more vertical in their growing habits than others, so look carefully at your trees by type. Some will require minimal maintenance; others it seems need help with every branch.  All European

Pears have very upright branching habit

Pears are prone to vertical growth and usually require some intervention for best production. Our aim is to get the main scaffold branches to develop a crotch angle of 45 degrees or even more.  This training should be done in the spring (now is a perfect time) while the branches are limber.  By mid-summer they become rigid and are easily broken.

This process is usually aided by the use of “branch spreaders”, a fancy term that means anything you can wedge in between the branch and trunk to spread the branch more horizontally. Sticks which are notched at the ends are perfect, paint stir sticks, again notched, can be cut to length and used.  Dowels with a finish nail in each end can work.  Sometimes tying the branch down with string or twine to another branch is

Branch Spreaders in place on small apple tree

accomplished.  Weights hung with fishing line to bring small branches down is often a technique that is employed.  Very small new branches just emerging from the trunk can often be directed with a clothes pin clamped onto the trunk.  Some low and larger branches may be tied to a stake in the ground.  Basically anyway you can devise to spread that branch will work.

Remember this training is temporary since the branch will become rigid by mid or late summer and your “training aid” can then be removed.  This training once done will not have to be repeated ever on the same branch.  By bringing those branches down to at least 45 degrees your trees will be stronger and produce much more fruit.

One of the most frequent questions we are asked is “How far apart should I plant my trees?” 

Pears in a High Density planting

The answer to that question isn’t as simple as it first seems.  Many factors go into it including the variety of tree within the species (example Honeycrisp and Winesap apples grow totally different), rootstock, soil type and area of country.  However, the most important factor is really the training or pruning method used.  Most fruit tree types can be trained to increase density, or trees per acre, and also the ultimate size of the tree. 

In the late 60’s the apple growers in this country were starting to be faced with a decline in suitable farmland and also the first competition from imports.  As time went on it became obvious they would have to get more production per acre to keep up.  Not only did this involve a higher density

Pear production in Australia

planting but also required more mechanized handling and harvesting to compete against lower wages. 

Prior to the sixties semi-dwarf trees started to come into vogue and increased the production per acre. Now apple trees were easier to pick and less fruit was lost because it was out of reach on high branches.  Orchards with larger trees might have 100 per acre, now we were approaching 400 per acre.  For comparison we have a density of about 300 per acre at our farm.  A whole new terminology has been developed to discuss what used to be called “spacing”.  We now have the following terms to tell how many trees are commercially planted per acre:

Spindle System of training

Low Density           <  400

Moderate Density   400-1,000

High Density           1,000 – 2,000

If that weren’t enough now the move is to even higher numbers and we have;

“Very High Density” at 2,000 – 3200 and of course  “Ultra High Density” at 3200 and above trees per acres.  I don’t know what will come after UHD, maybe SDHD for Super Dooper High Density?

The pictures shown are generally in the “Moderate High Density” or “High Density” crowd.  As an example if you planted trees 3 feet apart and had alleys of ten feet between the trunks, you would “only” have about 1,250 per acre!  If the old orchards were like people in New Mexico, the new commercial ones must be like people in downtown Manhattan. 

Tall Spindle System on Apples

So to answer the question “How far apart should you plant your trees?”   I guess it depends…  For some reason I am reminded of the old saying. “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it”

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