All winter long, as even the sunny days are finger-bitingly frigid, I sit in my office and peek at the small apple orchard that grows alongside the house. I think I should go out and prune those trees, but I just can't make myself do it. Once it warms up and I am eager to be outside, the buds on the trees are so large that I'm concerned about decimating this years apple crop by assertive pruning – and then it doesn't get done. To elaborate, when you need to pull big branches out of the trees, a good yank gets the job done, but in the process may take tender buds with it. If you prune in the winter, the buds are more likely to stay with the tree.
My trees are at least 50 years old and probably closer to the age of the house, which is over 100 years old. When I first began pruning them, all of my work was simply about removing the dead wood. Over the years, I've been able to work on getting more air and light into the branches and remove any crossing limbs. Leaving, of course, any limbs that assisted little climbers (my daughters) in their journey into the trees. This follows the rule of thumb for most pruning. Remove dead wood first, crossing limbs next and lastly, make the aesthetic cuts that look pleasing to the eye. I don't often get to the last step because it's recommended that you remove 1/3 or less of the trees branches in any given year. My intermittent pruning assures that my 1/3 will be primarily in dead and crossing wood.
Not so this year! This weekend, my girls and I sat out on the rock in front of our house, first waving goodbye to Papa, who was headed out to deliver a boat from Miami north. It was so nice that we basked in the sun and took turns telling each other a story about a giant, a fairy, a little girl and two good dragons. Then a picnic lunch, still enjoying the warmth on our faces.
By lunchtime, I'd had enough time to ponder the apple trees and headed to the shed for my pruning tools. Maybe this year the apples will grow big and hearty now that they have space to expand.
The photo of the trees doesn't do them justice. If you think this looks like a tangled mess now, you should have seen it beforehand.
© 2009 Anne Mahle