Gentle pruning of trees and shrubs

The pruning of trees and shrubs is a vast issue, often subject to controversy (when I talked about gentle pruning, or worse, no pruning, in the 20th century…, I was almost offended at times… luckily one changes. bit ), and cannot be made into a blog post.

Indeed, there are different schools (heavy old-fashioned pruning, soft winter pruning, green pruning) and each species has its own peculiarities (natural growth habit, mode of fruiting, more or less easy healing, etc.), which are themselves determinants of which size to take.

Therefore, today we will content ourselves with presenting some of the main principles of rotogravure before inviting you to read on.

The different sizes

We distinguish:

  • training buddy : As the name suggests, it involves shaping a sapling. This pruning is carried out from the second year and for 3 or 4 years). The chosen formation can be a cup, a spindle, a free form, a leash… depending on the species, the available space and your own wishes. In my opinion, the size of the formation is not essential: one can very well leave the tree to develop naturally;
  • fertile size : certain types of fruit can be pruned for correct production and in particular if you want to avoid the phenomenon of variation (decrease in production every two years) (but again, this is not mandatory);
  • pruning maintenance or renovation : here we are going to thin out too close leaves, remove suckers, bring the leaf closer to the center of the tree or even remove dead wood;

Some basic rules for pruning

Pruning is a complex art that, if done incorrectly, will harm the tree more than anything else.

I would therefore say that it is better not to prune at all than to prune badly!

That said, here are some basic concepts to understand before you get started:

  • respect the natural harbor of a species or variety rather than limiting it;
  • sharpen your pruning tools properly and disinfect them before moving to another tree, to prevent the spread of diseases or other pathogenic fungi;
  • oblique cut to promote sap flow and thereby give better healing and protect major pruning wounds (with vegetable tar);
  • prune a weak tree (very short shoots of the year) to restore vigor; prune a strong tree long (because they can support a large fruiting).

What are the pruning goals?

  • keep the antlers a fair distance from the center of the tree (the sap will have trouble reaching a branch that is too far away, threatening to exhaust the tree);
  • promote light penetration for better photosynthesis and good fruit ripening. To do this, we will thin out the center of the tree (if it is done in an open form), we will thin out too heavy carpenter branches, and we will remove certain branches that overlap or are under a branch;
  • remove suckers and the basic versions (unless you want to use it to renew an aging carpenter or even fill a void) as the latter draw much of the sap to themselves, at the expense of the rest of the tree.
  • clean the tree from its dead or diseased branches;
  • avoid the phenomenon of alternation to have regular production from one year to the next

When to prune

There are 2 main pruning periods:

  • during the rest of the vegetation (i.e. during winter) as far as conventional pruning is concerned;
  • in spring and summer for green pruning which, unlike traditional pruning, is done by hand (without secateurs) and consists of removing buds during the vegetative phase.

The soft mate

As I said in the preamble, it is impossible here to detail the pruning process in great detail for each type of fruit…

For arborists who want to learn more, there are books designed with this in mind. In particular, let’s quote Jean-Marie Prat’s: “Prune all the fruit trees – species by species – gesture by gesture”.

But in this book, as in most published to date, we have an “old” view of pruning with a “dominant” approach: we want to model the tree the way we want… at its expense.

Gentle pruning of fruit treesThe book Therefore I want to talk to you today, and published by Terre Vivante, is presented by Alain Pontoppidan.

It’s called I’m Learning To Prune My Trees – Fruit Trees, Shrubs – Little Handbook Of Soft Carving.

This book is the opposite of Jean-Marie Prat’s. Alain Pontoppidan indeed presents us with a method of intaglio printing.

The author invites us here to respect the natural shape of the tree.

It is actually an invitation to observe and understand. And his book might as well have been titled: ‘How do you prune his trees as little as possible?’ ยป

So let’s be clear: anyone expecting an accurate pruning protocol with detailed schedules will be disappointed… because that’s just not what the book is about.

But for amateur or professional arborists who want to understand better the rules that determine the good health of a tree and only try to prune wisely, with the utmost respect for the tree, it could well become a bedside table…

To better understand what it’s all about, here’s an excerpt from I’m learning to prune my trees – Fruit trees, shrubs – Small guide to gentle pruning:

As you will have understood, this book is, in my opinion, essential to understanding and, I hope, applying gentle carving to your fruit or other trees.

My only regret is that green pruning isn’t covered (meaning decapitating a branch instead of cutting a branch)… but that could be the subject of a future article.

Here is the summary of “I am learning to prune my trees – Fruit trees, shrubs – Small manual gentle pruning”

And yourself, do you prefer soft intaglio, or even non-gravure? Or are you just a pruning shears? I invite you to express yourself below…