Sunday, 19 February 2017

Orchard pruning session 18th Feb 2017

Friends of Mayow Park volunteers gathered for our annual orchard winter pruning and maintenance day. Eight adults and two children came to lend a hand. Our trees are in a public park, where grass mowing it carried out regularly during the summer, where dogs and children run around. The space  is well used. The trees have tree guards around them to offer some protection until they are bigger and stronger.

The trees are dormant now so this is the best time for formative pruning of our apple trees (malus) and pear trees (pyrus) to give them an open shape and encourage flower and fruit growth.

We set to work. First up was a check on the Cox’s Orange Pippin apple to identify fruit buds and leaf buds. We agreed which branches needed removing or having their height reduced, which crossing or crowded branches needed pruning  in order to open out the centre of the tree to allow air and light in.
Should I cut here or here? Cox's orange pippin

Look at what you are doing!
The Jupiter apple is growing noticeably stronger than the others planted at the same time. Maybe it is in a better location for sunlight, maybe it is better placed for moisture to its roots. It had grown much taller than the other trees - too tall.  Its fruit would be difficult to pick. We agreed to remove one of the main vertical limbs and reduce the height of another before tackling lower branches to give a better shape to the tree.

 Trees planted last March (2016) did not need pruning, other than a damaged branch. The height of some of their tree guards was reduced to allow branches to spread.
Two of the volunteers with tools, ladder and a cup of tea
The site is on heavy clay so the soil tends to dry out and crack during dry summer months. Mulching is important for our trees, helping hold moisture in the soil during the summer as well as making it harder for weeds to take hold. The two children had a great time climbing mountains (the pile of wood chip ready for mulching) and digging with trowels; to some extent they helped their mums remove weeds round a  tree and to put a thick layer of mulch around its circumference.
This is how I like to mulch
some of the water shoots in the wheelbarrow
Surveying the work from a height
 As always with outdoor activities, the weather can play an important part in the success of the day. We were lucky as it was relatively warm for this time of year (Around 9 or 10 degrees) with sunshine.

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