February 11, 2014.
Cold but clear today. We are enjoying the extended snow cover with long daily walks and planning for the new growing season. We pruned over 9 acres of apples in late December and early January. We stopped just before the real cold set in. It is bad for the trees to prune within several days of plunging temperatures. We always begin with our mature trees because they are a bit tougher.
Last year was a down year for apple production due to the big crop in 2013. Flower clusters (spurs) produce fruit every other year only. This is important to know because if nearly every spur has an apple, (as was the case in 2013) then there are few potential flower buds available the next year. This winter we have an opportunity to break this biennial bearing cycle. Pruning rigorously this winter will go a long way to accomplishing this. We looked at our trees and noticed that a large proportion of the buds on the trees are fruit buds and not vegetative buds. Dwarf trees that can normally mature about 200 apples/ tree have nearly 500 fruit buds on them. Multiplying the 500 budsX5 flowers/bud you get a potential crop of nearly 2500 apples/tree. This is almost 10 times what the tree can handle this year. Heavy pruning will help us to remove nearly half of this excess. The rest can be handled at thinning time in May and June. If we do not do this, we will be right back to a huge crop this year and hardly anything in 2016.
Every variety is different so you must look at them individually. For instance, our Honey Crisp have lots of fruit buds except for one block and they are very light in terms of fruit buds. We pruned these much lighter than normal because of this. We need every fruit bud we can get on these.
When the weather warms up a bit and the snow goes down, we will complete our pruning on the apples and pears (we will wait on the plums till bud swell and the peaches till pink stage).