Pruning the apple trees has been my chore for the last three days. One because it needs to be done, two because we like apples, and three a groovy bio-dynamic calendar told me that, according to the stars, these last three days have been advantageous to plants of the fruit realm. The moon seems to be traveling in front of a constellation that correlates to fire element, which enhances fruit growth.
After tackling four trees with my trusty $2.99 bargin bin hand saw, some surfing on line and chatting with people of apple tree knowledge, I think I have learned a thing or two about pruning super over grown, wild apple trees.
1st lesson- open the center of the tree. Easy enough. I charged in there and stared hacking away the dead and broken branches, as well as the "suckers". Suckers are these oprotunistic shoots that usually align themselves vertically. They are no good for fruit because the will bend over and break. Opening the center allows for air and light to get in to the trunk of the tree. I have noticed on some of the trees quite a bit of lichen. Lichen loves shade and water. I remember from my field trips in elementary school that lichen will eventually wear away at rocks. I can't imagine that stuff is really good for trees. So I decided that cutting away horizontal branches that entangle and compete with each other is a really good thing. It allows for more sunlight to get in and fry-a-late the lichen.
2nd lesson.- Keep the horizontal branches, and the branches that are angled 15 degrees outward. Apparently these will hold the fruit the best. I cut away the branches headed down. More than likely these branches will have fruit that will weigh down and hit the ground. It is the trees way of dropping its fruit and spreading itself. Interesting creatures these apple trees.
3nd lesson- Only cut 1/3 of your tree away. I devised a rule of thumb; make three big cuts, and if there is another large cut that can be made, it can always be done next year. How to decide the "big cuts" is another matter. I used some of the knowledge from 1st lesson. "Open the center, cut away suckers." By looking at the tree it is pretty easy to tell which large branches were at one time in their life a "sucker" that just matured. They make prime candidates for a "big cut". Even better if you can find a "big sucker" that is "shooting vertical" or is "horizontally entangled" - let er frikin have it!
After spending five years in art school drawing nude women, I couldn't help but notice that apple trees have their own figure gesture. So I made up another little mantra to follow: Decide where the gesture and life force is going, and decide where you want the life force gesture to go, and anything that is headed in the other direction can be lopped off.
There are plenty of wild apple trees out there, I am sure anyone can find one, prune it up, and have themselves a little one tree orchard. That is the news from Symphony Farm where the basil is germinated, the hands are scratched up from pruning trees, and the chores are usually finished.