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Stripping leaves to induce dormancy

 
Jane Reed
Posts: 46
Location: Fair Play, California
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I have heard of this concept but never practiced it, till now.  Within a few weeks I'll be transplanting some one and two-year old seedling fruit trees and they are none of them fully dormant.  At about one-third from the base the leaves are well faded and they strip off easily.  On the rest of the stem they're stuck hard and still green.  I want to be sure I can bare-root these trees but I don't think I should if there are still green leaves.  There is even new growth at some of the branch tips.
    I live in USDA zone 9a, at 2300 feet, on the western slope of the Sierra Nevadas, 45 miles east of Sacramento, Calif.
     Should I actually cut the green leaves off if they won't come off with a tug?
 
Marco Banks
Posts: 374
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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I've tried it a few times with my apple trees.  My Fuji and Gala need about 400 chill hours, but we don't get that here in Southern Cal, so several times, I've pulled all the leaves off to see if it would help them go into dormancy.

In the end, I didn't notice any positive difference.  They didn't seem to break dormancy in any vigorous way in Spring.  Now I just leave them be, and they tend to keep their leaves throughout the winter.  I'm not sure they ever go totally dormant.  As a result, we don't get that one big flush of new growth and blossoms in the spring when the other trees break dormancy.  But they still flower and we still get fruit set, albeit irregularly.  Just on those higher chill trees -- not on the trees that only require 100 or 200 chill hours.

So, my impression is that it didn't work.  Give it a try and see if it works better for you.  It would be nice to have 2 identical cultivars of the same apple growing side by side, that way you could experiment with one while leaving the other as your control.  See if there is a side-by-side difference.

Adversely, it seemed that stripping the leaves stunted the growth of the tree a bit.  When I don't strip the leaves, the tree pushes out more growth over the course of the season.  The leaf-stripped trees took forever to put on new growth the following spring.
 
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