Features winter pruning apple trees
Pruning is one of the most important and, at the same time, difficult moments in caring for fruit trees, and their health and productivity directly depend not only on how regularly and technologically correct this procedure is, but also on what time of year she is being held. We will tell in more detail about whether it is possible to prune apple trees in winter and how to do it correctly.
Why do pruning apple trees in winter?
Pruning, depending on how and when it is done, can become a serious stress for the apple tree, as well as an incentive for development, rejuvenation and intensive fruiting. Therefore, it is impossible to learn how to prune trees correctly without gaining basic knowledge about what biological laws govern the life of this plant species.
Important! Most tree species respond to pruning by enhanced vegetative growth of lateral branches and young shoots, but these processes are far from always beneficial to the plant.
In late summer or early autumn, when the vegetation processes gradually fade, and the tree begins to prepare for a state of dormancy, this kind of stimulation will lead to the fact that abundant young growth will simply freeze in winter, and the forces that the tree should have been saved to increase frost resistance will be wasted.
It is for this reason, by the way, that in autumn it is strictly forbidden to feed trees with nitrogen, just like pruning, which stimulates the growth of green and wood mass.
On the other hand, radical pruning during flowering (spring) or fruit laying (early summer) can also do much harm to the apple tree, as it will lead to abundant drainage of juice (gum) from the cuts, which contains nutrients intended for branches, leaves and flower buds. In addition, during the period of intensive development of pathogenic microorganisms and other garden pests, such cuts are a real gateway for all kinds of infections.
Did you know? In the wild, an apple tree can grow up to two hundred years, a pear - up to three hundred, and juniper - and even up to two thousand. However, trees planted in large cities live on average only eight years.
In winter, the apple tree is at rest, sap flow in its branches is practically absent, and all its many enemies - fungi, viruses and insects - also do not show activity.
Thus, pruning during this period does not cause stress on the tree, but since the beginning of spring, when sap flow begins, and the treated “wounds” are already slightly healed, getting rid of excess apple branches will be perceived as a signal for active awakening, that is, it will lead to the result that the gardener needs.
It does not follow from what has been said that pruning apple trees is necessary only in winter. This can be done at different times, depending on the type and purpose of the procedure, however, the bulk of this work falls on the period of the end of winter or the beginning of spring, when the most severe frosts are already behind, but the sap flow has not yet begun.
Advantages and disadvantages of winter pruning
- Part of the benefits of winter pruning has already been mentioned. Summarizing and supplementing this list, it should be said that it is advisable to carry out this type of work in winter, because it allows you to:
- avoid the release of gum (the so-called "crying" apple trees);
- minimize stress from numerous cuts and simplify the procedure for their processing due to the fact that there is no sap flow in the branches;
- to prevent the risk of the penetration of many infections into open "wounds" due to the lack of activity of their pathogens;
- define the pruning scheme more precisely (on the bare and leafless skeleton of the tree, the excess branches are very clearly visible);
- it is easier to get to the tree itself, as well as the branches and knots designated for removal, without getting confused in the thickets and not clinging to leaves, thorns and other hindrances;
- spend less effort on pruning “sleeping” branches;
- perform slices more accurately and efficiently;
- prevent bark bulging, which often happens when pruning during the active growing season;
- stimulate active growth and flowering of the apple tree from the first days of heat;
- save time for other scheduled activities, of which there are many in the spring, and summer, and autumn.
Important! The apple tree belongs to those types of trees that tolerate pruning very well and respond fruitfully to it.
- Winter pruning of garden trees also has its drawbacks. These include, but are not limited to:
- physical inconvenience of working in cold conditions;
- the inability to clearly determine which branches are dead (dry, frozen out) and, accordingly, must be removed, and therefore often in spring it is necessary to correct the results of the work done;
- difficulty in choosing the optimal period and suitable weather for manipulation (lack of snow, rain, fog, wind, subsequent severe frosts, which can lead to frostbite of pruning places, etc.);
- the need to select special compounds for processing saw cuts, since a regular garden var in cold weather becomes too hard, and it is difficult to work with it.
What trees can be pruned in winter
In winter, you can prune any apple trees, regardless of their age, variety and other characteristics, but some factors still need to be considered.
In particular, with more caution, it is necessary to approach the timing for work on young seedlings, as well as varieties with low winter hardiness, since they are especially at risk of frostbite of the cut sites.
Winter-hardy varieties that easily tolerate pruning even before severe frosts end, include, for example, apple trees such as:
- White filling;
- Altai Bagryanoye;
- Souvenir of Altai;
- North Sinap;
- all kinds of ranetki.
Did you know? New Yorkers claim that the age of an apple tree growing in Manhattan is 370 years old, and the tree still bears fruit.
In addition, those who suffer from radical shortening of branches may trees that were not properly prepared for winter, namely, were not subjected to such procedures as:
- rationing of fruiting (especially in the first few years after planting or in relation to high-yielding varieties);
- competent introduction of organic and mineral fertilizing;
- abundant winter watering, etc.
In adults, in the winter, apple trees can carry out all kinds of scraps - sanitary, shaping, anti-aging. For young seedlings during this period, as a rule, only sanitary pruning is used, and as for the formation of the crown, it is better to postpone it until the frosts finally recede (however, in the southern regions or during an abnormally warm winter, a correctly planted and well-groomed tree can trim and at low subzero temperatures).
There are general rules for winter pruning of apple trees, however, depending on the purpose of the procedure, the age of the tree, as well as the region where it grows, the timing and pattern of removal of branches or their fragments can differ significantly.
One of the hardest moments in winter pruning is the right timing.. You can’t get attached to the calendar in this regard, since it is clear that winter in the Moscow Region and in the Crimea ends at different times and has a different degree of severity.Accordingly, what in the southern regions can be done as early as January, in the northern should be postponed to the end of March.
Important! Among all fruit trees, it is first of all possible to prune apple trees and other pome fruits (in particular, pears). Cherries, cherries, plums and other stone fruits tolerate similar procedures carried out during the frost period, so they begin to form closer to spring.
The general principle in determining the pruning period is that the procedure must be carried out, on the one hand, after severe frosts have ended, on the other, before the movement of juice begins in the aerial part of the tree.
It is important, however, to keep in mind that the moment of awakening of plants occurs before the buds swell on the tree: the appearance of the so-called “green cone” is a result of active sap flow, which lasts for a certain time. Thus, after the buds are swollen, it is too late to cut the apple tree, although about a month remains before the first leaves appear.
It is very easy to determine the beginning of sap flow in an apple tree. To do this, it is enough to cut a small shoot near the tree and try to remove the bark from it. If it was possible to do this without much effort, the moment is missed.
However, it is impossible to rush with pruning, as subsequent frosts can severely damage the tree. The negative temperature itself is not an obstacle to the procedure, however, it is important that the frost is no stronger than -5 ... -7 ° C, otherwise too fragile branches can be easily damaged. It is very important that there is no ice and snow caps on the branches during pruning - it also threatens breaks and splits.
Important! When choosing a moment for pruning, one should take into account not only the current weather, but also the state of nature during the previous weeks, as well as the forecast for the next period of time (the procedure should be postponed if it is expected to lower temperatures to -10 ° С or more).
You should not plan to carry out work during or immediately after hurricane winds, in wet or humid weather, since all these factors increase the likelihood of the detrimental consequences of causing the apple tree additional “anxiety”.
In the process of pruning, both the complete removal of the branches and their shortening can be carried out. Each of these types of work has its own rules.
Removing branches should always be done "on the ring." In the terminology of gardeners, a ring is a characteristic influx that forms at the base of a branch at the point of attachment to the trunk. In the middle of this influx are plant cells that are more capable of regeneration, so a cut made within such a ring quickly heals without causing much suffering to the tree.
1 - correct branch cut, 2,3 - incorrect branch cut
It is for this reason that you cannot leave stumps when removing a branch, but you also cannot cut it to the very base, leaving a recess in the form of a hollow in the place of its attachment to the trunk.
For beginners who are not experienced in the visual definition of a ring, especially if we are talking about branches growing at an too sharp angle to the trunk, experts recommend mentally drawing a line perpendicular to the branch chosen to remove the branch at its very base (as if it were to be cut strictly under a straight line angle), and a second line running parallel to the trunk to which this branch is attached. The angle obtained by connecting the two indicated lines should be divided by a bisector, which will be the place where the cut is performed.
Important! Wrong choice of saw angle, leaving hemp when the branch is completely removed or damage to the bottom of the annular influx, along with ignoring the disinfection of the tree after trimming, are the main reasons for the subsequent decay of the branches and trunk.
There are two possible ways to shorten the branches: the outer kidney or the inner kidney. The first method is used if you want to destroy and expand the crown of the apple tree, while the second, on the contrary, is used if the crown needs to be thickened by raising the branches a little higher. The scheme for shortening the branch to the kidney involves the movement of the knife from the side opposite to the kidney, at a height of 2-3 mm below its base. The angle of the cut - 45 °. With the right direction, the knife should go above the kidney at a height of 2-3 mm.
Shortening the branches to the kidney
In weakly growing trees, it is important to shorten the conductors of the main branches by about 50% of annual growth, otherwise lateral shoots at the base will not form. This pattern is called “back growth” pruning. It is used both for young apple trees and for old trees that were not correctly formed initially.
For varieties with moderate annual growth, it is enough to cut off only the upper kidney of the conductor, this stimulates a good branching.
Further, apple trees that are in the formative stage of fruiting (usually this period captures the age of 6–15 years) must be stimulated to a constant increase and a steady increase in productivity. For this purpose, in addition to thinning the crown and ensuring its uniform illumination, it is necessary to ensure the formation of rings, on which, in fact, the fruits develop. This problem is solved by shortening perennial branches and annual growths; moreover, it is impossible to pile up rings on the branches, the optimal distance between them should be 10-15 cm.
In older, but not yet old apple trees (up to about 30 years old), only sanitary pruning is performed - removal of spinning tops, duplicating each other and preventing the lighting of the crown of branches. You can also shorten too long branches, this stimulates the formation of fruits on them.
If the apple tree is launched (not formed correctly and not trimmed regularly), it is also necessary to thin out and sometimes shorten all branches by 50% to stimulate the development of side shoots.
Did you know? The largest apple, awarded the honor of being included in the Guinness Book of Records, weighed 1 850 g. It was grown in 2005 by the Japanese Chisato Iwasaki.
Old apple trees (after 30 years) need anti-aging pruning, allowing to stop the decline in productivity and extend the "productive" life of the tree. To do this, the main branches are shortened at the height of growth of the last 3-5 years, thin out fruit branches and leave part of the young shoots to subsequently form substitution branches instead of dying old branches on its basis.
Finally, when the age of the apple tree crosses the forty-year mark, a radical rejuvenation is performed, consisting in the removal of old branches and replacing them with new ones, prepared in advance for this purpose.
In addition to the rules described above, the mandatory pruning plan also includes the removal of dry, damaged and frozen branches. Despite the absence of foliage, clearly demonstrating which branch is alive and which is not, it is still possible to identify branches that have not survived the winter by the darker color of the bark.
Important! Dry branches found during the growing season must be removed in the fall, as they prevent the tree from surviving winter frosts and increase the amount of future wood loss.
The formation of the crown is a mandatory step in caring for a young apple tree, which, in fact, lays its productivity for all subsequent years.
There are several ways to carry out such work, but it is very important that it be carried out in accordance with the originally planned plan. Usually The foundation of the future crown formation of a young seedling is laid even in the process of growing it in a nursery. Therefore, an inexperienced gardener when buying a tree for planting should ask the seller how to conduct subsequent pruning.
If third-party specialists are involved in this type of gardening work (which is quite appropriate and even desirable in the absence of the necessary skills), you should try not to change such artists from year to year, otherwise, because of different approaches to work that may contradict each other, the tree can be badly damaged.
A two-year-old apple tree seedling usually has a lower layer of the lateral branches. They, if necessary, during the subsequent pruning, are slightly shortened, but generally left in their original form.
Important! Lateral branches appearing at the base of the tree below the grafting site must be removed.
This is followed by the design of subsequent tiers of lateral branches, and this work should be carried out until the tree reaches the usual growth for this variety.
The tier way of forming the crown implies an even distribution of lateral branches on the tree, directed in different directions so that there are nowhere left bare or, conversely, too thickened sections.
Each tier should consist of 4-5 lateral branches located relative to each other in the plane of 15–20 cm, and the distance between the “floors” can be approximately 35–40 cm. Thin side branches that appear between tiers are first cut at a height 4-5 kidneys, and the next year they are removed "on the ring", thereby contributing to the formation of a powerful trunk.
The degree of shortening of the conductors at the stage of crown formation depends on the strength of growth of the apple variety and is approximately:
|Growth Strength (Annual Growth)||Side Branch Shortening Level|
|High (over 60 cm)||20%|
|Medium (40-60 cm)||30%|
|Weak (15–35 cm)||50%|
In the formation of subsequent tiers, it should be borne in mind that after shortening the main branches, their growth usually occurs in the form of bunches ("bush"). It is very important to leave only the central, most powerful shoot from such a bundle, while the remaining branches should be removed.
The places where the branches were cut, in essence, are the same for the apple tree as the wounds on the human body: on the one hand, they threaten “blood loss” (outflow of juice), on the other hand, they increase the likelihood of infections, especially if the cut liquid. In addition, intensive evaporation of moisture occurs from the wound, which also negatively affects the general condition of the tree.
Therefore, caring for an apple tree after pruning, as well as caring for a patient after surgery, should include mandatory treatment of the wound.
Important! You can leave without processing cuts of thin branches up to 1.5–2.5 cm, but only if the tree is absolutely healthy.
Before applying a healing composition or simply blocking the access of air to the sawing place, the cut must be cleaned to completely level the surface, remove burrs and wood "dust" from it. Perform this procedure best with a garden knife, while capturing a small area of healthy tissue.
Then immediately it is recommended that the surface of the wound be treated with a soft and clean brush with copper or iron vitriol (concentration 3-5%), potassium permanganate (saturated pink solution), Bordeaux mixture or a solution of brilliant green (in common people - “brilliant green”), after which let the drug dry completely. Depending on the weather, this can take from 40 minutes to several days. It is desirable to process all sections - both thick and thin.
Video: Do I need to process cuts and slices after trimming
Only after this can we start “filling” the wounds remaining after the removal of thick branches. For these purposes, you can use the following tools:
- Garden Var. In color and consistency, this drug is similar to wax. It can be easily purchased at any agricultural store, and, if desired, and made independently by mixing rosin, paraffin and any unsalted animal or vegetable fat in a ratio of 4: 2: 1 and boiling the resulting substance for 10 minutes.Wax in this recipe is sometimes replaced with turpentine, and fat with linseed oil.
- Natural drying oil based paint.
- Talkermade from mullein and clay (the consistency of very thick sour cream).
- Cement, liquid nails, foam (options are not the most environmentally friendly, but sometimes, in the absence of other means used).
- Special Lacquer Balms (the so-called "artificial bark"). This tool is ideal in terms of effectiveness, however, such drugs are quite expensive, in addition, you can not buy them everywhere.
Important! For the processing of saw cuts, it is not recommended to use water-based paints, since after the first rain from them there is practically nothing left on the cut. In addition, some varnishes and paints contain chemical solvents that penetrate the wood and poison the wood.
Processing can be carried out with a brush, spatula or a regular knot wrapped in a soft cloth. For additional disinfection in the garden var, you can add crushed wood ash or one of the special preparations that accelerate the scarring process, for example, “Heteroauxin” or “Rannet”.
The cutting areas of especially large branches after processing can be additionally protected from frost by wrapping them in burlap or agrotechnical fiber.After proper processing, the slice gradually overgrows in the form of a crustal roller, the formation of which begins from the edges. During the year, the place of the trimmed branch with an area of 2-3 cm² is completely tightened, while in the absence of processing this process takes place at least twice as slow.
If the apple tree was pruned radically, over the next year it needs especially careful care, which includes strict adherence to the regime of irrigation and top dressing, as well as rationing of the crop.
Did you know? In order to meet the need for two people in oxygen, just one adult tree is enough. It also absorbs such an amount of carbon dioxide, which produces an average car for almost 50,000 kilometers.
Tips from experienced gardeners for beginners
Experienced gardeners when planning and conducting winter pruning of apple trees advise beginners to strictly adhere to the following rules:
- You should always start work by carefully inspecting the tree and drawing up a clear plan for future work - selecting branches to be cut, shortened, etc. At the first stages, it is useful to pre-mark using a regular school crayon (rule “measure seven times, cut once ”In this case is of paramount importance).
- Weak branches need to be shortened strongly, leaving 2-3 buds, and for stronger ones, the cut is carried out at a height of 8 or more eyes.
- Skeletal branches should be left longer, and growth (vegetative) branches should be shortened more.
- A seedling planted in the fall is not pruned for a year and a half, and during spring planting, the tree can begin to form immediately.
- The branch should be shortened strictly above the kidney, because if a cut is performed above the kidney, the branch will dry.
- All work must be carried out only with a very sharp and pre-disinfected tool.
- Slices should be tried to be performed as quickly as possible, accurately and evenly, avoiding bulging of the bark. When working with thin branches, a secateurs are used, and the procedure is carried out in one motion, it is better to get an electric or chainsaw to remove thick branches.
- After rejuvenating pruning in spring, fertilizers, both organic and mineral, should be applied to the soil under the apple tree.
- Before you trim yourself, it’s wise to take a few hands-on lessons from experts, best of all, by inviting them to your own site and getting specific advice on a very specific tree.
- You need to cut the tree every year, starting this work immediately after planting, then the apple tree will form correctly, and in the future it will take much less effort to maintain it in a “working” state.
Pruning an apple tree is a whole science, therefore, in no case can you begin to perform such a procedure without serious preparation, both theoretical and practical. Different vegetative periods can be used to form crowns, rejuvenate, stimulate fruiting, thinning and sanitary care (removing dry and damaged branches), but the main emphasis in this type of work is at the end of winter or the earliest spring. Wrong choice of time and even just not guessing with the weather, you can completely destroy the tree, but if everything is done correctly, the apple tree will certainly respond to the effort spent with a rich harvest.