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Trees seem to need pruning despite their natural shaping ability.

 
Gilbert Fritz
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I know many some permaculture types, especially followers of Fukuoka, advocate letting a tree shape its self. And I agree, a young tree does have an admirable symmetry to it. After all, why would a tree waste branches that just crowd up the interior? It has no more dieisre to do that they you do.

However, Fukuoka explains that a tree that has always been pruned needs to stay pruned, or it will die. This seem sensible; the tree's innate ability has been hashed.

This is where things get hazy.

Enter the late spring storms of Denver, Colorado. A foot of heavy wet snow snaps half a dozen branches of this admirably shaped tree. To compound the damage, the weakness caused by the weather means that the central leader dies. So, to repair the damage, the owner prunes. Now that tree will always need pruning to keep things orderly, even without the inevitable branch breakage every few years.

As a matter of fact, that tree was already grafted and pruned in the nursery, so it had to be pruned right from the start. But let us imagine that the owner was a zealous permie who grew it from a seed to get a tap root. And let's say there are no other competing trees, buildings, or shrubs around to distort the shape (unlikely.)

Even with the best slant being put on this, won't trees always need pruning, due to their rather messy breakage / dieback response?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I prune trees primarily so that I can pick the fruit... If a tree is taller than I can reach when on top of my tallest ladder, then I might as well cut until the tree is low enough that I can pick the fruit... If the tree is too brushy for me to reach the fruit, then I might as well remove some brush so that I can install a ladder and reach the fruit... I call that kind of pruning "making a ladder station". If there are dead branches in a tree, then I might as well cut them out, cause they may prevent me from picking the fruit.

If one branch is growing immediately under another, it will produce very little fruit, because it is shaded. Might as well remove one of them so that the fruit on the remaining branch can get extra nutrients from the roots.

Since I'm growing fruit trees in the lawn in the suburbs, I might as well cut off the lower branches so that I can mow under the tree. I'm basically coerced into doing that type of pruning, so no point fussing about it.

I have seen lots of trees that were pruned for some time, and then neglected. They don't die from neglect.... They might die from old age, but any tree does that.

The year after a large cut it made on an apple tree, the tree will send out vigorously growing vertical shoots from near where the cut was made... No big deal. Rub those out in early summer, and prune away any that were missed the next spring, and the tree grows normally.

 
Gilbert Fritz
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Good points Joseph.

 
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