• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Help Me Prune/Fix My Little Trees!

 
Nicole Alderman
pollinator
Pie
Posts: 978
Location: Pacific Northwest
89
duck forest garden hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Two years ago we bought some discount fruit trees at Grocery Outlet, and they-of course--were pruned rather badly. I didn't prune them, though the deer did. So, I put them in wire fences to protect them (I now have bone sauce which seems to be working well. Only one nibble on one tree out of 15 trees). But, now the trees have taken on some rather unbalanced shapes, with branches not angled well, and I don't quite know how to fix them. The cherry tree is the worst, but the apple tree is pretty sad, too.

Here's the cherry tree. It was in a waaaaaaay to small cage, and the branches that didn't grow upwards got eaten by deer. I put the closepins at the limbs to help angle the smaller branches, but I really have no idea what to do about the contorted "leader."

Any ideas?
103_9184.JPG
[Thumbnail for 103_9184.JPG]
103_9185.JPG
[Thumbnail for 103_9185.JPG]
103_9186.JPG
[Thumbnail for 103_9186.JPG]
Close up of the mass of horrid branching....
 
Nicole Alderman
pollinator
Pie
Posts: 978
Location: Pacific Northwest
89
duck forest garden hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here's the apple tree, which I already pruned one large branch off of.... and the little tree seems super happy about it, making more blossoms than any other tree I have. But, it's reeeeeeally leaning and unbalanced, and I don't know how to fix it...

Thank you!
103_9187.jpg
[Thumbnail for 103_9187.jpg]
Giant branch I already cut
103_9189.JPG
[Thumbnail for 103_9189.JPG]
103_9188.JPG
[Thumbnail for 103_9188.JPG]
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Pie
Posts: 1683
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
112
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The cherry doesn't really look that bad for what it has been through. Straightening the leader would be ill advised on this tree. You do need to use triple stakes for the main trunk support. If you want to try to straighten the leader into a more upright stance, make the three stakes heavy and long, use cloth wraps and old garden hose with heavy wire run through the center then slowly (2 years or more) twist the wires to force the tree more upright, do this just a little at a time, and reposition the cloth and hose pieces each time you are ready to add more tension.

The Apple tree also needs triple stakes and the above wire set up to straighten it.

The best thing to do with both of these trees in my opinion would be to pollard them later on, starting slowly to snip them back to the main trunk, this will form a knob at the end of the main trunk from which new branches will sprout.
The other best method for these particular trees would be to set up a trellis and train them into either multi leader or espalier.

This link is a very good one on pruning fruit and nut trees pruning and training fruit trees
 
Patrick Mann
Posts: 302
Location: Seattle, WA, USA
2
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I would have just topped the cherry a few feet above the lower branches to induce branching. It may be too late to do that now though, you'd have to wait until winter/ early spring 2016. Otherwise it really doesn't look bad to me. What's your complaint about the "horrid branching"? You can thin them as necessary.

That apple definitely needs staking. Probably it's a super dwarfing stock with a small root system that can't keep it solidly anchored.
 
John Wolfram
Posts: 612
Location: Lafayette, Indiana
17
trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Nicole Alderman wrote:Any ideas?

It's not a pruning idea, but: Wood Chips. Pull out the grass and dandy lions around the base, and put down a thick layer of wood chips. Alternatively, if you're lazy like me you can weedwack around the base of tree and put down the wood chips. It sounds like your trees have enough problems early in life, so no need to add competition with weeds to the list.
 
Nicole Alderman
pollinator
Pie
Posts: 978
Location: Pacific Northwest
89
duck forest garden hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Bryant RedHawk wrote:The cherry doesn't really look that bad for what it has been through. Straightening the leader would be ill advised on this tree. You do need to use triple stakes for the main trunk support. If you want to try to straighten the leader into a more upright stance, make the three stakes heavy and long, use cloth wraps and old garden hose with heavy wire run through the center then slowly (2 years or more) twist the wires to force the tree more upright, do this just a little at a time, and reposition the cloth and hose pieces each time you are ready to add more tension.

The Apple tree also needs triple stakes and the above wire set up to straighten it.

The best thing to do with both of these trees in my opinion would be to pollard them later on, starting slowly to snip them back to the main trunk, this will form a knob at the end of the main trunk from which new branches will sprout.
The other best method for these particular trees would be to set up a trellis and train them into either multi leader or espalier.

This link is a very good one on pruning fruit and nut trees pruning and training fruit trees


Thank you for the link on pruning! I've been trying to educate myself about it, as I find it rather scary. I don't want to mess it up! If I pollard them, they will be VERY short, won't they? Their trunk base is only about 2-3 feet high. How much fruit could such a short tree make? The trellis seems like a good idea, if they weren't in the middle of my "orchard," but maybe I'll just have to sacrifice aesthetics for healthier, more fruitful trees.

I will definitely get to steaking out the trees, I even have some old hose to do it with (double entendre not intended!).

Patrick Mann wrote: It may be too late to do that now though, you'd have to wait until winter/ early spring 2016. Otherwise it really doesn't look bad to me. What's your complaint about the "horrid branching"? You can thin them as necessary.
I thought stone fruits were supposed to pruned after they flowered to prevent fungal infections. Does that not apply to cherries? I'm really new to pruning. The horrid branching might just seem horrid to me, because I don't know how to fix it. The apple tree has only two small branches on the north and northeast side (the side it's leaning away from). How do I encourage more branching over there to help balance it out?

John Wolfram wrote:It's not a pruning idea, but: Wood Chips. Pull out the grass and dandy lions around the base, and put down a thick layer of wood chips. Alternatively, if you're lazy like me you can weedwack around the base of tree and put down the wood chips. It sounds like your trees have enough problems early in life, so no need to add competition with weeds to the list.


You might not believe this, but I have at least 6 inches of woodships/grass clippings/leaves/duck bedding in a foot and a half circumsphere around the apple tree (though not touching it's trunk). The grass is a demon to fight. It grows right over the mulch and takes root by runners, or grows up through it by the mighty power of tenacity. I've been leaving the dandelions in hopes of helping accumulate more nutrients and combat the grass. Maybe I'll throw down more old paper grocery bags in a ring around the mulch to help ward off the encroching grass. I hate you, grass!

I do need to take better care of the poor cherry tree, though. Since it was in such a small cage before, I had not been able to much it at all, really. Thankfully the dandelions are winning in that area, but I will try and throw down more mulch (i.e. bedding from my duck house) to help nourish it and suppress more weeds.



So, if it is the right time of year to prune the cherry (it currently has two little bitty green cherries on it, and no more on the way), is this where I should prune?
103_9184 copy.jpg
[Thumbnail for 103_9184 copy.jpg]
Prune here?
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Pie
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
186
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I would go higher, to about the center of the upper block of leaves. This should cause the trunk to thicken and not reach for the sky.

Better to go a little too high than too low. They sometimes die back a little.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Pie
Posts: 1683
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
112
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Nicole, I would definitely not cut as low as your photo indication. You can do as Dale suggests or you could measure down one foot from the tip top and do your slant cut there.
Since you have mentioned you are new to pruning, Here are some basics; always cut on a slant (lets water run off the cut which helps prevent issues later on),
always cut above a bud swell (no need to have stick ends above new branches),
never use petro based pruning dressings (these create more troubles than they could ever fix, Elmer's glue is better, it allows the tree to build the wound scar while keeping any boring bugs out)

If you run into a situation where you need some help or answers, just let me know. Or post them here for lots of options from the good people we have here.
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Pie
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
186
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Good points Bryant. I regularly prune trees that have been abused by the owners and shoddy gardeners.

Tar sealers provide perfect conditions for rot and wood bugs. Commercial orchards and most professional tree people use nothing.

The most common mistakes I see, are cutting off branches and leaving long nubs that rot back. Others cut so close to the trunk that the collar is removed. Both mistakes prevent healing. I deal with many apple and cherry trees with rotted and hollowed trunks that can be traced to large branches that were hacked off by buffoons.

Bark tears can be avoided with a bottom cut. I usually chunk branches down in firewood lengths, which makes bottom cutting unnecessary.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Pie
Posts: 1683
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
112
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hau Dale, yes I see so many trees where the good intentions go bad (or the pruner just didn't bother to think or learn first).

My biggest "shake my head and try to repair the damage" events are from folks cutting off the collar.

When I teach pruning classes, I usually bring a potted tree that is sick from the nursery, with it I can point out where to cut.
I can also demonstrate how to cut, along with how not to cut.

I remember back in 1967, when I was restoring a Johnny Appleseed planted orchard finding two trees that someone had pruned long ago, they had removed half of the collar then gobbed tar over the cut.
These wounds had not healed over as they should have ( I found out from the owner of the land that these cuts had been done some 40 years earlier) I ended up doing tree surgery on those trees so they would not rot away.
One year later, they were creating the callous they should have already completed. I was amazed that the surgery worked, in those days I was just learning and didn't know if my treatment would be able to save these venerable old apple trees or not.

I really wish all people would ask and do the learning before they butcher their trees. Nicole gets huge bonus points In my book for asking her questions.

I really like to train trees when the tree shows me it would like to be something unusual or eye catching. I have done a few apple trees in flat fan shapes and one customer once, wanted a bonsai peach tree. I talked them out of the true bonsai but did shape the tree like it was a bonsai, it really puts off great fruit now that the owner can reach with only a step stool.
 
Nicole Alderman
pollinator
Pie
Posts: 978
Location: Pacific Northwest
89
duck forest garden hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So much good information! It really help augment what I read in my other thread (http://www.permies.com/t/43455/trees/Pruning-Apples-Cherries-Peaches-scared). I'm really thankful to you guys for pointing out the angle and placement of the cut, as well as other details.

Nicole, I would definitely not cut as low as your photo indication. You can do as Dale suggests or you could measure down one foot from the tip top and do your slant cut there.
Is there a direction I should choose for the top-most bud? Toward where the trunk should be? Is this still a good time to prune the cherry?

cutting off branches and leaving long nubs that rot back.
How does one do this? How to prevent it? My cherry tree had about 6 inches of dead at the end of it, but it was healthy and branching closer to the truck. Is this the same thing?

Thank you so much for all your help!
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1556
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
42
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Nicole Alderman wrote:Two years ago we bought some discount fruit trees at Grocery Outlet


My experience with discounted fruit trees has not been good. The ones we have ended up with (via my mothers impulse purchasing!) have all been on extremely dwarfing root stock. They were simply not vigorous enough to cope in our neglectful orchard conditions - they are structurally weak, poorly rooted and haven't grown more than 4ft in 6 years.

If your experience is like mine you may find that no amount of pruning will get the trees you want.

This year I am starting down the path of raising my own root stocks so I can graft trees on to appropriate known root systems. If you like the fruit you have but are unhappy with the vigor and growth of your trees you might consider the same.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Pie
Posts: 1683
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
112
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I try to make my cuts so the slant follows the leaf stem direction top to bottom of cut.
I use sharp, sterilized pruning clippers or loppers (depends on the size of the trunk/branch, you want a clean cut).

When I am setting up for any cut I gently set the blades around the object to be cut, (being careful to not damage the bark) slide the blades down to just above the leaf stem where you can spot the bud that will grow into a new branch.
Raise the blades to above this bud and lining up with the leaf stem, make your cut at the same angle as the leaf's stem attachment point.

Lots of times people just decide by cutting half way between stem buds, this leaves a lot of wood that will die back, above the new branch.

When year old trees are lifted bare root, it is not uncommon for the top most portion of the whip to die back after it is planted into its new home soil.
Wait until the whip has leaf out then prune back the dead whip to just above the upper most growing leaf, this will sprout a new branch that can be trained to become the new leader of the tree.

 
Heather Alison Cook
Posts: 11
Location: Western Cascades Lowlands & Valleys, Oregon-Zone 8
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I would plant comfrey and garlic chives around base of all tress to help with "weeds" I do not consider dandelions weeds and can they help, like comfrey bring up nutrients from the deeper soil. grass however does compete... so my pla is always to plant OTHER things so grass doesnt grow there. mulching is fruitless and can be low maintenance...until another year or two when the grass grows through. plant guilds so no weed wacking is needed and such bioaccumulators can be chopped and dropped at the tree base! much less work! much better for tree!
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic