I am still a newbie in regards to fruittrees. Thanks in advance for any help you can provide!
Two Christmases ago, we planted a small Persian Lime tree bought at a nursery and propagated by a cutting from a mature tree. Being inexperienced, we didn't care for the young tree as well as we should. It is still small, surviving but not thriving. Though I pinched most of the fruit, I did allow it to bear about 4 limes in its short lifetime. Now I know I should have pinched ALL the fruit the first year in the ground.
Anyway, my question now is how to shape the small shrub into more of a tree shape. I have already pruned a few low lateral branches, taking about 40% of the tree--an aggressive prune. Now, it has a leader that splits into a perfect "y" with dual leaders, 9 inches off of the ground (see attached file IMG_0003.jpg). Do I choose one of these dual leaders to be the leader and lop off the other one? If so, how do I know which to choose? Or should I not do any more pruning as it has already been pruned a lot, should I prune one leader next year? I also heard of a method where you cut half of the unwanted leader this year, and the rest next year. Am I correct in assuming it is better for the tree to have just one leader instead of dual leaders, or are dual leaders acceptable for a Persian Lime?
I also have a Mulberry Tree with the same problem--dual leaders emerging just above ground level (see attached file IMG_0004.jpg). Should I prune to a single leader, and is now the time (Spring) to do it?
I live in Central Florida Zone 9 coastal... 8 blocks from the beach.
Thank you SO much for any advice you have to give... I am all ears, and VERY appreciative!
PS... if any pemies have a suggestion about what kind of companion plants to plant at the base of these trees, I would love to hear your thoughts on that too!
Citrus trees don't like companions. They naturally form a sphere resting on the ground shape because they want to exclude all other plants inside their drip line. I'm even wondering if you have too much mulch under it. But as long as you keep it weeded, it should do well. I have done hoserkultur on my citrus trees, and it seems to have had positive results. As far as the shape of the tree, it looks OK in the pic, so see how it puts on growth this season.
Mulberries are a different case. They should have one strong trunk, and then once you get up about 4 or 5 feet you can do any sort of crazy topiary you want. A mulberry can take repeated pollarding and still come back, sending out new branches from the main trunk. That does allow for some type of ground cover around the base of it, but it better be a shade loving plant, as mulberries have a pretty dense canopy.
Courtney Wolfgang wrote:how to shape the small shrub into more of a tree shape...it has a leader that splits into a perfect "y" with dual leaders... Do I choose one of these dual leaders to be the leader and lop off the other one?
Limes are relatively small, and are usually trained into a bushy shrub, rather than tree form.
You can prune most things most ways, but you'll be fighting it...
Citrus don't generally need much in the way of pruning, aside from taking out larger branches that grow inward toward the centre, and shortening branches that shoot up on their own-I'd probably take that one at the top back .
When I 'head back' branches, I always cut just above a strong, outward-facing bud.
With the mulberry, I definitely second moving it. They are very large trees!
I'd take out the left-hand leader right at the base, and head back the remaining leader, maybe above the two branches under that green tape.
I second checking that the mulch isn't up against the trunks of both-basically all woody plants can get collar-rot, and citrus are really susceptible.
An old seedling pot keeps mulch away. I just cut all the way up one side of the pot with scissors and slip it around the trunk.
I would not leave a tree with dual trunks. This will create a weakness in the tree as it grows larger. A fork puts tremendous stress on the tree as it becomes large and heavy, especially if it is a fruiting tree. Fruit adds a lot of weight to the branches and they need to be able to support it. In addition to the risk of the whole tree eventually breaking from the strain of having dual trunks, tha lateral branches that form on each will get in each other's way and form a very dense center where you would normally want it to be open to let light in. It will become an impenetrable gnarly mass of branches, making picking very difficult. If I come upon a tree with a second trunk forming, I immediately remove one. Best done when the tree is dormant early or late in the season, but if the sprout is small and still green it can be done in summer. I don't recommend pruning during the growing season for anything major, only minor trimming. The single-trunked tree will reward you with health, vigor and bounty over the years!
To determine which leader to remove, I choose the strongest and straightest one to keep. It may have fewer lateral branches than the other, but once it is not competing for growth energy with the other one, it will form nice laterals. Make a diagonal cut at the base of the second trunk. Ideally this will be done when the tree is still small, and won't cause much of a shock if done when dormant. If the trunks are more than 2" in diameter proceed with caution, supporting the trunk as the cut is almost complete to avoid any cracking or splitting of the wood as the cut is completed. Cracks and damage from the weight of removing larger limbs must be prevented or you may have a problem with disease, being so close to the soil at the base of the tree. It is a good idea to put a tree guard around the base the first season or two after cutting to prevent damage from sunlight, weather and critters nibbling on the exposed wood. Pull away any mulch or debris from around the trunk and place the tree guard base directly onto the soil, then mound the mulch or leaves (if used) outside of the guard so voles will not be able to burrow inside through the mulch. In time the trunk wound will have healed over the cut. Once this happens and when the trunk is big enough to be safe from nibbling critters you can remove the guard.
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