The winter seasons brings with it new challenges. While the trees lay dormant waiting for the welcome return of spring, we at Orchard Origins are hard at work. This is pruning season for us.
Deciduous trees live their lives in a yearly cycle. During the spring and summer they put on growth, pushing nutrients, energy and sap into their exterior extremeities. In the autumn and winter instead, they draw their reources back underground into their roots to be protected from the colder weather. This is why leaves fall when it gets colder.
This cycle creates an important distinction in the type of work we carry out. Summer pruning is often used to reduce growth and vigour, removing the nutrients and energy present in the exterior limbs of the tree. Winter pruning on the other hand has the exact opposite effect: it encourages growth. Cutting a branch off from a tree during the winter will see a growth response from the tree. Once the tree wakes up from its cold slumber and activates, it will realise it’s lost part of it’s crown and immediately work towards growing it back. Which king or queen has ever laid still when his or her crown was lost?
Added to this reaction is the fact that the tree now has an unbalance in ‘resource storage space’, it has more underground than it does does overground. This further encourages the tree to put on growth. It may seem counter-intuitive, but pruning in the winter can actually stimulate growth in the spring and summer.
Although it might not seem ‘natural’, pruning can actually be beneficial to the ecosystem. Old trees with their standing deadwood are vital for wildlife, but they can often be structurally weak, unbalanced and dying. A good prune can help reinvigorate the elder and create a more stable balance, prolonging the presence of standing deadwood. Similarly younger trees can be kept in good shape, effectively increasing the amount of time they can be standing and productive.
Not all fruit trees are equal though. Apples, pears and many other ‘pip’ fruit trees can be pruned in the winter. On the other hand ‘stone’ fruits like plums, gages and cherries, are best pruned in the summer when damp weather is less common and a milder climate discourages the spreading of fungal infections.
These are only some of the considerations the Orchard Origins team has to make on a weekly basis, travelling across the county to traditional orchards, large or small. The more orchards we can help, the more wildlife we can protect, and the more delicious juice (or cider) we can drink.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch for any quesiton or if you need a hand. We are happy to have a chat and pay you a visit if you need some help taking care of your precious trees.