Sunday, February 20, 2005

Windburnt Cheeks

Windburnt Cheeks
Why do I enjoy pruning so much? I spent Saturday afternoon at the Highlands, our tree farm, snipping away at the hardwoods, envisioning how each cut would make the trunk straight and tall. Ron brought the dog along and, while they spent most of the time exploring, Ron was quite intrigued by the art of pruning, discussing where each cut should be made.

I pruned five rows of walnuts and oaks interplanted with pines, with wild cherry, tulip poplar, and sycamore volunteers. The current theory in forestry is that the pyramidal shape and faster growth of pines will create competition for the walnuts that will cause the more valuable hardwoods to grow straight tall trunks. You then thin out the pines to give the hardwoods room to grow. It is difficult for us to test this theory, thanks to the varmits (deer and rabbits) that think the juiciest morsel on the tree is the terminal bud, thereby creating tree candelabras.

When pruning young hardwoods for a crop, the key is to create a strong straight leader. For the candelabras, you select the straightest, strongest shoot and train it to be the new leader through pruning and taping. Here's a link and another that explains it well. I didn't do this research until now, but relied on the counsel of Uncle Sandy, the family tree expert. He taught me well.

Pruning season is through March in this area and I have thousands of trees left. So I hope we have some more sunny, relatively warm (upper 30s) days soon. While I may not live to harvest this crop of trees, I will start to see the results of my pruning this summer and can make corrections next winter.

Oh, and the wind blows all the time at the Highlands. That's why my cheeks are red.

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