Orchard Origins went back to the Houghton Project this week to prune the apple and pear trees we planted a year ago. Pruning a tree in its early years – known as formative pruning – helps it to develop a strong, basic branch structure. As discussed in a previous post Winter or Summer Pruning, formative pruning is best done in the winter when the tree is still dormant.
Last February Orchard Origins helped the Houghton project create a new orchard in a gently sloping field just behind the main farm complex. We planted 240 trees – a mixture of one, two and three year old cider apple and perry pear.
Two-thirds of the trees we planted were one year old ‘maidens’. This is their first winter after planting and it is now time to prune back any side shoots or ‘feathers’ to 2 or 3 buds. Next year these side shoots will be cut back to the trunk. This two-step process will encourage the tree to grow a sturdy, well-formed trunk. At this stage the central leader is left unpruned.
The other trees we planted were two and three year old ‘maidens’. The central leader on these trees is now at the desired height and is ready to be pruned to establish the trunk. As this orchard will eventually be grazed by sheep and possibly cattle, the trees will be pruned as standards so that the lowest branches are out of the animal’s reach. We will be discussing how to do this in a future blog post.