Winter On The Farm

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 11.08.38 AM“So, what do you do in the winter?” is a question I often get asked. Quite a lot, actually. Winter is the time when we prep and repair equipment for the coming spring. We still have apples and pears in the cold storage to pack and sell.  We also try to save a few “inside” jobs for when it is actually raining or snowing, but mostly we are pruning our apple, pear and peach trees. As I mentioned in my last posting, we have 17,000 trees that must be pruned before April, so anytime it isn’t snowing or raining, we are outside pruning.

I have also had folks ask me why we prune if the trees aren’t very big yet. We actually start pruning or training the tree as soon as we plant it. It is important to get the tree started off right and the first several years in the life of a fruit tree is the time we build the framework or structure of the tree. Once the structure of the tree is established, the pruning process is mostly thinning, renewing and cutting back branches to maintain the tree. Over the years I have had friends, customers and neighbors with fruit trees who call several years after they have planted the tree in their yard and they figure it is time to think about pruning it. Usually in these cases the trees are too far gone to ever have a chance of establishing a proper structure.

There are lots of resources on the internet. Here is an example of one that covers the basics.

There are articles and even YouTube videos on the subject.

Pruning and training fruit trees are equal parts science and art (Some aspects of farming require equal parts science, art and luck.) Every tree is a little different, but once you understand enough about what the goals are, you can “see” the cuts you need to make. You will be pruning for the current crop, as well as leaving some branches that will be the renewal wood to take the place of the current framework and fruiting wood in the tree.

One of the things I love about farming is that you have a very tangible measure of what you have accomplished. At the end of a day, you can look back down a row or across a field and see what you have accomplished. There is beauty in a well-pruned tree and you can see you made a difference and imagine how that tree will look in the spring with blossoms or in fall, full of fruit.