"Getting rid of everything that doesn’t matter allows you to remember who you are. Simplicity doesn’t change who you are, it brings you back to who you are."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Be Ruthless!

I tend to feel that most of my gardening posts are veggie oriented.  I suppose that's just because veggies are immediate and instant gratification so growing and posting about them has been pretty easy to do.  But SM and I are also very interested in growing some fruit bearing trees, bushes and plants.  Over the last 2 years we've made the investment to stick a bush here, and a tree there.  I really want to be able to grow my own fresh fruit.  But all fruit takes time to come to...Uh, fruition. 

The strawberry patch will be started this year. (More on that as things develop.) And the rasperries were started last year and seem to be surviving so far. The rabbits have demolished the three blueberry bushes I have. (BAD Tami!) I knew the bunnies were chewing on them and haven't done a thing to protect them. They've chewed them to stubs so once we've re-fenced in the new expanded garden area, I plan on transplanting what's left into that protected area. My neglect will cost us for a few years in the blueberry department I'm afraid. We also started a table grape vine and a muscadine vine last year.

As far as the trees go, I planted a "self pollinating" peach last year along with a Granny Smith apple. They are little more than sticks right now so pruning them is no big deal. However, we also have a Gala and Fuji that are starting their 3rd year with us so it's time to get serious about my fruit tree education...which is sadly lacking. 

I say to myself, "How hard can it be?"  You stick them in the ground, prune them and after say 40 to 50 years you might get an apple to two.  Maybe.  They grow peaches around here locally.  Apples?  Ya gotta head up into the mountains of NC for those.  So this just might be an exercise in futility.  We'll see.

I'm always on the look out for mentors and found Allison over at The Life Of A Novice who wrote a wonderful tutorial on Pruning Fruit Trees.  Allison and her husband have an apple orchard/farm and I've been picking her brains about what to do with my young trees. 

Now it was a beautiful day here Monday, blue skies and the promise of 50 degrees in the afternoon so I decided "today was the day". 

Allison says bare is GOOD.  More limbs = less fruit.  She says to BE RUTHLESS.  So I sucked up my courage and attacked my first tree.

Here's what it looked like before.  (Pardon the big blue ball in the center...)  This tree had suckers at the base. (snip)  "Think levels and compass, Tami." I mutter to myself.  (snip, snip)  (*Allison says that you need to create "levels" and describes how one level goes opposite (east-west) than the next level (north-south) like a compass.)


And now after.  Much better if I do say so myself.  On to tree number two. 

Uh Oh.  This tree has a central leader that is split or at least it seems that way to me.  I circle.  I put the pruning shears on a limb.  "Be ruthless!!!" I chant to myself. 

I hesitate.  Crap!!!  Now I'm second guessing myself!  This tree is just goofy.  There's really no good limbs to start a level.  Everything is on a sort of a V to each other.  Still...I do the best I can.  I take solace in the examples that Allison shows of trees in her own orchard that are goofier than this one.  Sometimes you just gotta work with what you have.

So here's the second tree.  Better...and Allison points out that if a few years go by and the shape of the tree changes you can always cut a limb back another year.

So that's off my list of "must get done".  Thanks so much, Allison, for helping me out!  I really appreciate it!


  1. Looks excellent - well done. And thanks for the link to Allison :)

  2. Great job---now come up here and do mine!!
    I watch instructional videos and read and it just confuses me all the more. I'll check this site out--maybe she can help me too!

  3. You might want to stop by Lee Reich's blog -- http://leereich.blogspot.com/ he's the guy who wrote the Weedless Gardening book -- one of the guides we used for our beds. He's a (former?) Cornell professor whose specialty is fruit trees. As a matter of fact, he's got a new book out about it. Also, the Gaia's Garden book (Toby Hemenway) has some wonderful ideas about setting up a "food forest" ecosystem design around fruit trees. Might be fun to play with while you wait for the fruit!

  4. Fantastic job, tami! Apples and peaches would be such a treat to pick in your own backyard!

  5. Here's Lee's book -- I just got this in my inbox from Vegetable Gardener magazine (Taunton is his publisher).


  6. Nice job on trees! Ours are also in 3rd year so we'll be prunning them in couple of weeks. And for blueberries they will grow out very fast and you might even have some berries this year. They have to be pruned back as well just like grapes and trees so don't feel too bad about bunnies.

  7. The bunnies don't bother my blueberries but the ants sure do make short work of any strawberries I plant. You win some, you lose some :/

  8. I planted two Pear trees when I first moved to the Homestead. I live closer to the cost then you do and each year the trees get "Fire Bliht". First the leaves and then the fruit. Each crop is a waste!
    If it happen again this year, I will pull them up and add them to the burn pile! And try a differant tree variaty!

  9. Ahhh...you have given me courage! I need to prune my trees...and I'm scared to death...I usually hire it done...but I really want to learn that skill. I think you've done a great job, the trees look great.