• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

fruit tree questions  RSS feed

 
Lori Whit
Posts: 44
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Pruning fruit trees:

Must one prune fruit trees when they're young?  I've seen things saying you need to prune any limbs that are bending inward or touching others; is this the truth in permaculture?  How independent can I allow my fruit trees to be, in deciding how much and which way they want to grow?  My two young trees are nursery stock and are doing well.  I've previously helped to raise two other successful fruit trees that are mature and bearing now, but I was never responsible for pruning them, and cringed at the methods those who did used!  It always seems rather violent to me, to chop a tree back hard for no real reason besides one's own convenience.  I'm not saying that all pruning is like that...just that I'm not, generally, a fan.

So what I want to know is: am I damaging my trees if I allow them to grow dense and tangled branches, if they so choose?  Specifically, am I damaging them in some real, physical way that will impede them in future--not just that they might bear fruit more slowly or something like that.  I'm not prepared to force them to grow fruit; they will when they're ready, and getting the nutrient and water that they need.

Citrus in cooler climates:

I'm in zone 6b.  Obviously I realize it's a long shot, but I'm interested in permaculture ideas that could allow me to grow a small citrus tree with fruit.  I don't have access to a greenhouse, or any reasonable way to build one, so this would be an "outside" plant, preferably with cold heartiness.  Does anyone here do this successfully?  Is it more trouble than it's worth, even if it's possible?  Do you actually get fruit?
 
David Livingston
steward
Posts: 3668
Location: Anjou ,France
176
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think everything depends on what you want to do. Lots of folks are very intensive about their fruit trees spend a lot of time pruning and getting the max harvest from a limited  number of trees .
Me I have lots of space and prefer to spend my time grafting and planting new trees usually at least ten a year . Eventually I may in the future become more intensive but by then I hope to have over 200 trees , as many types as possible .
So for me I am content to let the trees be trees
 
James Freyr
pollinator
Posts: 440
Location: Middle Tennessee
50
books cat chicken food preservation cooking toxin-ectomy trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The limbs that bend inward or touch others can be pruned, but they can also be tied with some twine and pulled into a different direction if there's room for it and after one growing season the branch will have a new memory and stay relatively close to the new position it was pulled to.

Letting your trees grow dense and tangled will not "damage" them, but they will also not benefit the tree. The inner dense branches are all shaded by the longer taller outer branches. They really won't grow well or benefit the tree as a whole much at all. When the dense inner shaded branches blossom and start to form fruit, the fruit will never reach full potential, and they really just take energy and nutrients from the larger branches and fruit further out that are in the sun, hindering their development. Some "branches" that form are what they call "water sprouts" if memory serves me correct, and they're a sucker, not a true branch, and they rapidly outgrow the others and also take a lot of energy to do that. Those really ought to be removed.

Fruit trees that are left unpruned can fall into a three year cycle of bearing fruit. Large unpruned trees take all the energy they've got to produce a crop because they have too many branches and blossoms to support and feed, and then the tree needs two years to recover and regain that energy to fruit again.

Fruit trees are one of those things that just do better and grow happier, yielding better fruit with the aid of proper pruning by a caring orchardist.

 
Joshua Parke
Posts: 144
Location: Northern New Mexico, Latitude:35 degrees N, Elevation:6000'
6
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Fruit trees that have been pruned to the standard vase shape in the past that are left to do their own thing, are underproductive.  There are hormones in the fruit nodes or branch tips....somewhere out there.....that the tree uses to trigger the flowers to become fruit.  If you leave the tree unmanaged, it can use up all of those hormones in one season and you'll get tiny fruits that season.  Then the next season you won't get any fruit because it used up all the hormones needed the season before.

Stefan Sobkowiak - has a video on here, and in it he talks about his preferred fruit tree pruning method.  He learned it from french fruit growers.  You let the tree grow straight up without trying to create a vase shape, so there will be a single dominant trunk and a single leader.  Year two branches are tied down for a season so they grow out and down instead of out and up.  Instead of a vase shape you have the christmas tree shape.  He does it that way because once they are set like that, they are said to not require any pruning.  This is what I recall anyhow.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2997
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
243
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I look at the limb joint to the main trunk to help in the decision of leave it on or prune it.

If you inspect the bark at this joint and it looks wrinkled and the V is steep, that indicates a branch that will be weak and a high velocity wind will cause damage at some point. Those branches are best removed to prevent injury to the tree.
Branches that cross are also bad for the tree since winds will cause rubbing which ends up as bark damage.
Branches that have crotches shaped like U are solid, good branches, these can be tied down or weighted so they hang down to open the tree center to more light, which is the ideal situation.

If you leave a tree alone, it will do just fine, but it could end up with some wounds and that isn't good since those are where insect damage and disease will have an easy entry point.

The most severe pruning method is pollarding, where all branches and leader are cut off, every year, this is a French method for apple trees in particular since they fruit on new growth.

Overall I like to only prune as I've mentioned above and the only other wood that comes out is dead wood.

There are several different methods of pruning fruit trees, the open center where the leader is removed to form a shape not unlike a martini glass, the wine glass shape, the mushroom shape and espalier for growing against a wall or fence.
Then there is the leave the tree to its own devices, this works ok but you might find damage later on.
I like to shape trees by bending branches out and down, only pruning what needs to be pruned.  (if you keep up with tree shape, you can air layer the branches that are going to be pruned once dormancy has set in, that way you get new trees for free)

Redhawk
 
Mike Jay
Posts: 716
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
35
books food preservation hunting solar trees woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Regarding the citrus, it will be tricky.  They don't like to get below freezing and I'm guessing you get to 0F at least once a winter. 

Here's a guy in Canada growing citrus, maybe you can copy some of his ideas to make it work.  Good luck!

 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2997
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
243
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Citrus growing where it gets to cold for them to live (around 15 degrees f can spell death) can be done but it takes some efforts to keep the chill off.

I have grown lemon and grapefruit trees where the temperatures got down to 0 f occasionally.
The way I saved the trees was with frost blankets and old fashioned smudge pots.

Where I am in Arkansas now, I plan to have some citrus trees in the future but I do plan on building cover supports for them and I'll have to use the hot rock trick from my tribesmen.
I had thought of actually building a special tree green house but I've since changed my mind about building such a permanent structure.
What I'm planning now is four bolt together walls double glazed with plexiglass and using a double layer frost blanket over the top.
 
Lori Whit
Posts: 44
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you for your answers.  Seems there's many ways to do it (or not do it). 

I may have to give up the citrus idea, although it seems to me that winters have been getting warmer and warmer here for the last ten years or so, and there aren't nearly as many days below freezing like there were when I was a kid.

I might see if I can get a cold hardy plant and try next year anyway, though.  The neat thing about owning my own land now is that nobody can stop me from trying new things.

It sounds like pruning is mostly a "good thing to do" (if you know what you're doing) and not a "necessity to keep my trees alive."

Might post a pic or two of my trees later so you can see how they look now.

Thanks!
 
Joshua Parke
Posts: 144
Location: Northern New Mexico, Latitude:35 degrees N, Elevation:6000'
6
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
sepp holzer has citrus trees growing outside in Austria.  They aren't very good eating citrus/lemon, but they grow and fruit....from what I understand.  There wasn't much information that I recall about this specificaly.  There may be a picture of it in his book..??  Can't recall.

Here's how he did it.  He used a location on his property that had a rock wall, "or put large boulders there to create a rock wall", in a position that works as a suntrap.  Then in front of the rock wall he dug a pond.  The pond reflects the sun in the winter into the rock wall for extra heat storage.  In between the pond and the rock wall is where the citrus is planted.  They were building something similar to this at wheaton labs, it wasn't finished two years ago when I saw it, they had the berms built.  Maybe it's finished now?
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1389
Location: northern California
46
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
There are several different pruning strategies, some more recommended for certain types and some for others.  One important point is if you do prune, to pick a strategy and stick to it and don't switch to another.....this will confuse it and it may take several years to adapt. 
      I myself have learned over the years to be a minimalist pruner.  Nature seems to create several ways of pruning fruit trees....storms, deer, grasshoppers, and fire blight(and the mandatory removal of fire blight following) just to name a few.  Those "water sprouts" that many resources recommend removing have the purpose of being backups...replacements ready to step in when outer branches get damaged by one of nature's pruners.  A few, at least, are good to retain.  Plus, they provide long, straight sticks, which are of value around the place, especially in a sparsely wooded climate like mine where most wild vegetation is bushy.
     Alternate bearing can be a good thing too, since the life cycle of pests and diseases that target the fruit are broken.  One of the big reasons for a pruning protocol is to encourage annual bearing....but then you need to be prepared for the increased insects and diseases that will likely bring.
 
Mike Jay
Posts: 716
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
35
books food preservation hunting solar trees woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
An alternative for citrus apparently is the Nordic lemon which was discussed a ways down in this post.  I can't find them in the US but maybe it will help folks in Europe...
 
We noticed he had no friends. So we gave him this tiny ad:
Jacqueline Freeman - Honeybee Techniques - streaming video
https://permies.com/wiki/65175/videos/digital-market/Jacqueline-Freeman-Honeybee-Techniques-streaming
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!