We had a very mild winter here in the NW, which is easing into what feels like an early spring. I took advantage of some free time to tend to a few projects. I got my raspberries and grapes pruned and trained up for another year.
My Marion Berries need a new trellis, so I go the pieces together to do that.
I pruned our Italian prunes, or at least cut back the suckers that grow like crazy from their bases each year. The trees are old and special, and I don't know what their life expectancy is, so I am encouraging a new trunk to come up from the roots, in case the old part of the tree looses its way. Not sure if a new trunk from the same roots will fare any better, but I figured I would give it a try.
And I did the lower half of two of the big apple trees. I will need to get the 17' orchard ladder out to get high enough to do the rest.
I have a row of espalier fruit trees, growing on about 40' of orchard wire. They are a 6 way apple graft, a Gravenstein apple, a Braeburn apple and a Bartlet pear. I really love them. It's fun to be so hands on with the trees, shaping and guiding them over the years. And they do need shaping; they are quite vigorous, and put on a lot of growth each year. This is the 6 way graft, looking down the line of trees.
I remove most of the new growth each year, letting the older branches get more sturdy. It is a little challenging for me a year later to remember exactly what my plan was, but the trees are getting old enough that I can kind of read them to see the shape I have been after.
After I clean them up, they have really nice silhouettes: Open and airy, so there is a lot of light getting inside them. No branches rubbing. Pretty slim, so no branch covers another and it is easy to mow right up to the base.
My pear is another story. I bought the trees from a nursery when they were three years old, pretty well established for commercially grafted espaliers. The first and second year I had nice pear crops, not heavy, but good. The next few years, almost nothing. I got a tip from the Home Orchard Society that raising the ends of the branches so they don't droop might help. So when I pruned the tree this year I raised the limbs I could, attaching them to the wire above.
I am not convinced that will help, but it was worth a shot. It is possible that the polllinator, somewhere in the area, got cut down. If the branch raising does not do the trick, I may have to learn more about what it takes to pollinate these guys. My father-in-law suggested grafting a branch from a pllinator onto the tree, which would be an elegant solution.
Soon, they trees will be in bloom. With the pears, it is a beautiful sight.
All of that pruning means the burn pile, which I took care of late in the fall, is already getting big.
It was 50 degrees and sunny with no wind; about a good a day as you can have for hot, hard work. We got about 30' of the 100' tree cut and stacked. I will need to rent a big saw for the rest of it. I love my little saw, and would eventually like to buy one with a 28" bar, but have not been able to justify the cost. So now and then I rent one. If nature keeps providing big trees like this I may have to spring for one soon.
Finishing this tree is going to be a tricky one. As I said, it was a fork that split off. Well, just under the tree was an old shed. The trunk managed to fall right on the shed.
As readers of the blog know, Phoebe can do amazing things with old sheds, so who knows what this might have turned in to. It may not be ruined, but until we get the tree of it we won't really know.
And getting the tree off it is kind of a big deal. It is actually sitting on the roof of the shed, angling down to the ground over a span of about 50'. I need to get it down to the ground, and I am not sure exactly how to do that. Other than to do it slowly. carefully, and with lots of eyes and brains around to help me figure out how it will work.
But that is a job for another day.