The Weekly Watch

Pruning Out the Dead Wood...

I hope my fellow southerners have already pruned their fruit trees, shrubs, and vines. However you folks in the northern zones still have time. Pruning fruit crops is important to provide sunlight, aeration, and good plant health which in turn improve their yield. It also makes a good political analogy...pruning out the diseased and unhealthy components of government and society. So join in this social and political pruning thought experiment as well as a practical discussion of pruning techniques for fruit crops.

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The illustration above provides a guide where to cut and how to minimize damage. You don't want to cut limbs all the way back to the main trunk. Many paint after pruning with thinned latex paint with a little Listerine added to discourage fungal growth, however most arborists suggest this is not the best practice.

Lee Camp spoke with John Leary https://trees.org/ about the importance of trees.

When people learn how to give back to the land, the land gives back to them.
The Forest Garden Program is a sustainable agriculture practice where farmers plant a specific variety of crops and trees in phases over a four-year period.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFQPKbkn9sQ (15 min)
They have a short 20 min documentary about their work...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKvMIDrGE7Y

The farmers we work with learn to grow a variety of fast-growing trees, fruit trees, hardwoods and vegetables. We use the fast-growing trees to secure and stabilize degraded lands. Then we help the farmer diversify his field with fruit trees and hardwoods. Farmers intercrop vegetables and field crops among the trees.

Most folks use the term food forest rather than tree garden, but the idea is the same.

food forest web_1.jpg

Trees need to be pruned to let in sunlight, provide aeration (to keep diseases at bay), and to remove any diseased material. This in turn improves yield. Additionally it allows you to shape or train your trees to fit your growing environment. Some exceptions are miniature fruit trees such as the dwarf peach. This type of tree needs some pruning because of its dense growth but does not require training. Another exception is the fig tree, which requires minimal pruning and not for training purposes.

People seem nervous about pruning but it isn't difficult unless you have old neglected trees. Training trees from the start is the ticket, but if you are lucky enough to have some old trees they can be pruned and trained. Look at the method of restoring these very old apple trees in the UK...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WG7IsheFHuQ (8 min)

Older trees can also be reworked by grafting new varieties on to the old trees...
https://extension.psu.edu/fruit-tree-propagation-grafting-and-budding
https://extension.unh.edu/resources/files/Resource003733_Rep5323.pdf
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=885VGccSrvs (7.5 min)

You only need simple tools. Hand Shears and loppers with scissor type by pass cutters (as opposed to an anvil style), and a small pruning saw (unless you have big trees). https://www.portlandnursery.com/trees/pruning-guide/

Oddly enough pruning should begin at planting...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrZ79AUCbqs (7 min)

As the tree grows, there are many techniques to train the tree branches to grow laterally rather than up into the tree. (10 min)

The pruning technique is somewhat species dependent...
A central leader is used with Pome Fruit (those with a star shaped core and small seeds)
Apple
Pear
European Plum
Cherry
Pome fruit is usually trained with a central leader. A central leader tree has a main branch (what you might call the trunk) that produce secondary limbs.

Pruning to create a central leader
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vqdokls1SzE (2.5 min)

central leader.png

Open Center pruning is used with Stone Fruits (those with a central pit or seed)
Peach
Nectarine
Japanese Plum
Jujube
Olive
Apricot

Stone fruit is trained as an open center, this is also known as vase shape in some areas. This training method usually requires a specific height (between 18 to 36 inches) to be determined. Above that height, the central trunk is pruned with four to six main branches evenly spaced around your tree selected below this point. These branches should be close to a 45 degree angle.
Peaches and nectarine open center pruning
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x67sXjvpA9M (9 min)

open center.png

Another, and perhaps easiest, option is the Fruit Bush System
“Fruit bushes” (fig. 3) are standard (full-sized) trees or, preferably, trees on dwarfing rootstock that are kept small by periodic summer pruning. This method can work for nearly all fruit species. The beauty of this system is its simplicity and ease of management. Pruning begins in about late April or early May of the first growing season, when new growth is about 2 feet (60 cm) long. At this time, cut the new growth in half, aiming for a uniform, bushy appearance. Hedge-trimming shears may be useful in this. In about late June, cut the subsequent new growth in half. If new growth is vigorous, it may need to be cut once more during the season. These heading cuts promote an excess of branches, so thin them by removing some shoots to allow sunlight to reach the lower branches.If needed, thin out additional crowding branches in the dormant season when they are more visible.
http://homeorchard.ucdavis.edu/8057.pdf

bush style.png

Most fruit trees can be purchased as dwarf, semi-dwarf, and standard tree forms. Dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties are easier to manage. Consider this example of how to prune a dwarf apple tree in CO. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SzDPmAOZKo (10 min)

Here's a power point about pruning with excellent pictures and more tips...
http://pcmg.ucanr.org/files/141628.pdf

Some other general sources...
https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/pruning-fruit-trees-zm...
https://www.organicauthority.com/live-grow/beginners-guide-pruning-fruit...

...and as a review - The 10 basics...
http://cesonoma.ucanr.edu/files/27164.pdf

Perhaps the easiest fruits to grow in my area are blueberries. These bushes are fairly easy to prune as well...cutting out up to a third of the old canes each year.
https://growingsmallfarms.ces.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Cline-...
https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-1430

Grapes and vines require a trellis or structure
https://viticulture.unl.edu/trellis-systems
and should be pruned accordingly...
https://hgic.clemson.edu/pruning-muscadines/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmfhesXlZnE (4 min)

espalier.jpg

All fruit crops can be pruned to fit a trellis called espalier. According to American Garden History, espalier was originally used to create outdoor “walls” in Europe during the Middle Ages and was also planted in interior courtyard walls to prevent late frost bud-kill. Apple and pear are the most commonly used trees for espalier.
https://www.starkbros.com/growing-guide/article/espalier-fruit-trees/
https://gardentherapy.ca/espalier-fruit-trees/

You may think your garden is too small for trees. Consider this fellow's inclusion in his small garden. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiZo9cfOfSc (9 min)

So much for fruit crops what should be pruned out of our culture and system?

thoughts.jpg

As I began writing this piece on pruning I started thinking about all the things I wish I could prune out of our culture...beginning with things like poor eating habits which lead to obesity, obsession with profit and wealth, fossil fuels and climate chaos, and on and on....

How about the UK pruning itself from the EU? (8 min)...pretty funny IMO

I caught a piece by Richard Wolff discussing religion as an opium of the people. I've often wondered about pruning religion out of our lives. Dr. Wolff had an interesting idea that as long as our system creates pain for many citizens, they need the opium of religion. Interesting idea, but I think we might be better pruning it out...at least the tendency to kill one another over our (dis)belief in God...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhHp3Zfu7eE (5 min)

experiment.jpg

May be we should prune out most of the politicians? We could use direct democracy to determine important issues and let civil servants handle the rest. After all my ATM card keep my account (and everyone else's) to the penny. Certainly we have the technology for direct democracy. However most discussion on the topic has to do with citizen initiatives. My thought is - no war without a national vote, put the green new deal, guaranteed job program with a minimum SALARY, Medicare for all, and so on to a national vote,
https://vittana.org/19-pros-and-cons-of-direct-democracy
https://newvote.org/direct-democracy
debate?
https://www.debate.org/opinions/should-the-us-political-system-change-in...
https://www.idea.int/news-media/news/case-against-direct-democracy

Harvard review sees direct democracy as a danger...you can't trust the people to look after the needs of the oligarchs (or may be you can with a corporate media misinforming people?)
http://harvardpolitics.com/united-states/the-dangers-of-direct-democracy/

I can continue pruning things (my list quickly became lengthy), but I want to leave you the fun of the experiment. What would you prune out of our culture and political system. What tools or procedure would be required?

thought app.png

There are several c99ers with more experience than me with fruit trees and pruning, and I hope you might chime in with additional thoughts and advice. I hope you all have fun thinking about things we should lop out of our culture and society. I look forward to your ideas and stories below. Happy spring and great gardening!

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detroitmechworks's picture

And was always a pleasure to have apple crisp or numerous other dishes. Was always amazed at the tree's yield, especially considering that it was near an oak tree, which makes things difficult for fruit trees. (Oak Root Rot...)

Our political landscape really reminds me of a typical California State Park. Overgrown, debris everywhere, and yet nobody will do the necessary controlled burns. We've got dead wood, sick old growth, and so much leaf cover it's insane. One spark and the whole thing's gonna go up, but what do people suggest? Let's change the guy who greets visitors! No, he's not going to do the controlled burns either. No he's not going to get a clean up crew in instead. No, he's going to tell us that we need to set fire to that other park across town.

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

Lookout's picture

@detroitmechworks

We do need a controlled burn! Get rid of the weedy undergrowth.

I like your state park analogy. They have put our state parks on a pay for yourself program...and if you make any extra money it goes to the general fund. The rethugs have been doing their best to choke all public service funds and then scream how government doesn't work. Same trick with Venezuela...put them under extreme financial sanctions and scream about the failure of socialism.

Yeah, a controlled burn might be just the thing.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

dkmich's picture

The only thing I don't like about them is big trees are expensive to cut down and haul away if they die or get broken in a storm.

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"Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

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Lookout's picture

@dkmich

...especially if it is near your house. It is an art to watch though. A friend had a big pine leaning over his house. They started by notching the tree away from the house. Then using a large rope with a self-tighten knot they pulled the tree away from the house, cut a little more, pulled some more, until the tree was leaning away from the house. Then one final cut and down it went in the yard. Took them all of 15 min to cut it down.

Same fellow cut another tree out in the yard. He eyeballed it, went out and drove a stake in the yard, then in one cut felling it on the stake, driving it into the ground. Like I said a real art.

Dwarf fruit trees won't be a problem in this regard.

TREES

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Joyce Kilmer
‘Joyce’ was actually a man, whose full name was Alfred Joyce Kilmer; he was killed at the Second Battle of Marne in July 1918, aged just 31.

I also like this less well known poem...

Binsey Poplars

Felled 1879

My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
All felled, felled, are all felled;
Of a fresh and following folded rank
Not spared, not one
That dandled a sandalled
Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.

O if we but knew what we do
When we delve or hew –
Hack and rack the growing green!
Since country is so tender
To touch, her being so slender,
That, like this sleek and seeing ball
But a prick will make no eye at all,

Where we, even where we mean
To mend her we end her,
When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
Strokes of havoc unselve
The sweet especial scene,
Rural scene, a rural scene,
Sweet especial rural scene.

‘Binsey Poplars’ was not published until 1918, like so much of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s work. Shortly afterwards, the poplars were replanted. In 2004 they were felled again, only to be replanted.

All the best. Thanks for coming by!

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

I just cut some scion wood yesterday here in the Chicago suburbs. it's time for full dormant pruning. Your mention of espalier prompts me to mention that I have five semi-dwarf pears espaliered in a Belgian fence against my garage wall. I started about 25 years ago. They are growing too vigorously now, but have given me much fruit over the years. Apples would be even better because pears are to be picked still slightly green. Most people have never eaten a tree ripe apple of peach. I brought a bag of peaches to work once and many people declined saying they didn't like peaches. I thought, "Who doesn't like peaches?" When I could persuade one to try, they would say, "Wow! This is good! It doesn't taste like a peach!" No, it doesn't taste like a green baseball picked while hard as a rock and gassed for color.

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Lookout's picture

@The Voice In the Wilderness

I want to do more grafting. I'm building a new garden fence and am playing with the idea of adding an espalier apple, so I enjoyed doing a little homework.

You are so right about the taste of fresh ripe fruit. Like they say around here, "You can't buy that at Wal-Mart."

Good to "see" you. Have fun with your trees!

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Azazello's picture

Jimmy Dore gloats a bit: YouTube, 18 min.
Russiagate's greatest hits include a raving Keith Olbermann: YouTube, 6 min. and Morgan Freeman: YouTube, 2 min.
Noam Chomsky gives his take on Russiagate, among other things, in this interview from Tucson. It's well worth a watch: YouTube , 40 min.

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Lookout's picture

@Azazello

Like Jimmy I must admit to gloating a bit among some of my buddies. I enjoyed laughing with him in that clip. I'll check out the Olbermann and freeman pieces. Saw SD's piece on Rachel Madcow

Loved the Noam interview, although I found I see the Syria situation differently. I usually find myself in agreement and/or learning from him.

I appreciate the visit and good links!

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

@Azazello I stopped it 5 seconds in.
I remember purchasing an extra package on my cable tv so I could get the channel to view his show.
I never saw this coming.

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Azazello's picture

@on the cusp
He's not the only one.

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@Azazello Trump rightly called it out as fake news. Oh, the irony...

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Lookout's picture

@Azazello

...in the second half of Max and Stacy's show with Michael Hudson. The 1st half was good illustrating the death of US hegemony...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0nW8PwnZUo

Have you seen any of this fellow's work - The new left? Here's a great piece on voting -

Glad to see young folks asking these questions!

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Azazello's picture

@Lookout
I don't have fruit trees so I just prune for appearance. I always do a flush cut so the branches I've pruned don't come back.

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Lookout's picture

@Azazello

of all pruning...but I was trying to expand the conversation to pruning social and political aspects also.

Hudson has been around promoting his book "Forgive them their debts" talking about the history of debt forgiveness. Hence the allusion to pruning debt.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Deja's picture

@Lookout
Great video, LO. Will be sharing it. When I hear we can just vote our way out of all the bs, and voting for Bernie again will save the planet (our only hope too!), with evidence and videos proving that to be a fallacy, I wonder what exactly they hear/see after watching the same thing. Either it's denial, or something more Brockish, if you will.

I don't see this as some type of "what do you see: old woman or young woman" visual interpretation fun thing. But god forbid you try to explain why voting is done in vain and provide video evidence like that video, or "Hacking Democracy". The whole thing is sad, but saddest of all are those who refuse to even entertain the thought and go on to shame others for seeing the truth.

Thanks!

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Lookout's picture

@Deja

...then I thought it was the courts. Now I think it is all hands on deck ....everybody do what they can...the ship is sinking.

Good to "see" you.

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lotlizard's picture

@Deja  
like a corporate giant treats employees of acquired formerly independent companies that are now subsidiaries. We’re all supposed to be one big happy corporate family now.

“As a member of the E.U. Group™, you may still be thinking in terms of belonging to your respective country, nation, and people. This is old-fashioned. In the future, ‘country,’ ‘nation,’ and ‘people’ will exist as marketing concepts in labelling and packaging only, each merely one regional brand in our corporate stable of brands.”

European parliament elections are coming up in May. I encourage people to vote to gum up the works.

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mimi's picture

@lotlizard @lotlizard
strange feeling for me, because it would be the first time I could vote since I am back in Germany and I have no clue what I should 'gum up'. To me it feels like the EU member states are as unhappy a family not united as the people in former East Germany are unhappy with their richer and more arrogant borthers in former West Germany, or as Eastern Europeam nations are with their Western European nations cousins, or as in the segregated neighborhoods of poor (black and Mexican and Latin American) neighorhoods with their richer white folks neighborhoods in the US. All are rather unhappy and not united and all find a lot of straw man arguments to cover up WHY they feel like that.

Gum up, I guess you mean to vote to make them all stick together, nevertheless the fact that they are dis-united?

Ok, if so, I never liked bubble gum. In my old age it stick to my teeth and brakes part of them off. No gums, no more.

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Lookout's picture

@lotlizard

people as grist for the corporate mill. In those days they made it sound better by calling people customers. Now they want corporate citizens? As Noam suggested, they manufactured the peoples consent.

Hope all is well across the pond with you and yours!

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lotlizard's picture

@Lookout  
Physically exhausting and as an Aspie I have to force myself not to bridle at being among so many fellow fairgoers, but in the end totally worth it. Feel mentally recharged and stimulated, and in some way spiritually uplifted.

Wow, look at all these people from little kids to the old and infirm, still interested in the world of books! Anti-intellectualism and anti-literacy haven’t totally won out yet.

The concurrent MangaCon (manga-anime-gamer-cosplay convention) is a fun spectacle too.

As far as the E.U.’s attempt at quasi-corporate “mega-merger” is concerned, it seems everyone in the elites thought it was a done deal but large swathes of the doggy citizenry aren’t eating the dog food.

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Lookout's picture

@lotlizard

Imagine people reading real books...wow! My partner uses a kindle reader, but I still like to turn actual pages.

Glad to hear about an uplifting experience. We often tend to look in the sewer at the horror of our situation instead of examining the promising things people do. There is much good around us...we need to focus on it more often.

Take care, and happy reading.

PS I saw someone here on the site talking about the book "Overstory" which sounds interesting and fits the theme of this essay. http://www.richardpowers.net/the-overstory/

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mimi's picture

@lotlizard @lotlizard
for me reading books is a challenge if I read online. The two ways of reading compete against each other and I regret a lot that I feel a victim to that competition and losing out on reading books.

I have so many I intended to read when I bought them, but never get to it, because I am already exhausted and distracted by my online reading.

I have the irony in a situation where my sister, starting to slide into light dementia, finds itself reading and loosing herself intensely in her books, though I am not sure if she still keeps the content of what she reads for long in her mind.

She always read a lot of books (fiction) her whole life and never learned to use the computer other than using a little bit of email writing some five to ten years ago. That also fizzled away, she can"t uns even a mobile phone for seniors amymore.

I read more online, but have given up on books, because my brain is filled up once I read online.

What is the experience of other people on that?

I started out on the web in 1994/5, triggered by its potential to have an online bookstore. That failed thanks to Mr. Amazon Besoz being a booktrader of the Wall Street Hedge Fond-type kind and me just searching for a replacement of opening up a real little bookstore. Til today I don"t get over it.

Ok, just want to know how many folks have lost the capability and time to read books, because they read online.

lotlizard I think it's wonderful you saying that the bookfair visit stimulated and inspired
you. May be next time I will be stronger and go as well. For the time being I can't handle the crowds.

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Lookout's picture

@mimi

reading as the birds sing and the butterflies flutter by. So I read online back at the desktop when I'm researching or browsing the news (like here at c99). But after bit of that, I need to get up and do stuff...even if it is to wash and fold clothes, or sweep, or dust....

I find I can read for an hour or more with a book...especially if I'm outside. So to answer your question, reading online is a different experience (and typically a different type of content) than reading a physical book...at least for me.

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mimi's picture

and if the wind would come from the South the falling trees would all hit the house. That has never happened for 65 years. If the wind came from the east, they would just fall on the lawn, if the wind came from the west some could damage the neighboräs house. We had already a large pine uprooted. There is no way to cut the root chunk into peaces and to hall anything out of the garden, because as bulky equipment doesn't fit through the narrow openings at the side the house to both the neighbor's fence. Most of those trees are 80 years old Birch, Walnut tree and who knows what. We had lots of fruit trees when I was a child. We planted five new ones and it's good to have your pruning guide. Thanks.

So, what would you do? Let them grow another couple of decades til they come down naturally and risk getting hit by them or would you cut some?

Ws don't want to cut any of them. They are in a group and protect each other when we have high winds. But it's a little scary. We had to cut down one and it's a beautiy to watchn how the professional gardeners do it. It's expensive too. I wouldn't have the money too, if I had to handle the bills by myself.

Your pruning guide is great. I have a landscape architect and gardener cousin, who managed for some decades of all park and greem public places in Berlin. Each time he visits us he complains about how folks don't know how to prune fruit and other trees. Well, I think, if he would read your essay, he would be very pleased.

Have a wonderful rest of the Sunday.

PS. What I would like to prune out sometimes, would be my brain, as it feels like dead and may be it could grow some new branches then...
Dash 1

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Lookout's picture

@mimi

his doctor. Imagine my brain as a herd of wildebeest in the African savanna. Now think of alcohol as a pride of lions. The lions attach the weak and diseased wildebeest and keep the herd healthy and viable. Certainly alcohol does the same with my brain cells.

He said, "No, Lloyd it doesn't work that way..."

My personal philosophy on trees is don't worry about them. They will live longer than you or me. I have a hickory hanging over our house (where is is easy to feel like a nut as they fall...donk, tanka, tanka ,tanka, as the hit and roll off the roof). So let them grow is my advice.

Good to hear from you today. So many old beautiful trees in your part of the world.

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dance you monster's picture

Have a few dozen fig cuttings (taken in December) in the fridge waiting for room to open up on the benches to root them. Maybe a hundred willow cuttings (taken last month) also biding their time in the fridge. Hardy Russian (!!!) pomegranate and muscadine grapes are on the benches now, sprouting nicely as they put on roots. As soon as they're far enough along to move outdoors, the figs and willows get their turn.

A local group, the Back Yard Fruit Growers, holds annual workshops on grafting in Lancaster (Amish country): a beginners' class in the afternoon, after the experienced grafters scarf up all the most unusual and hard-to-find scion wood in the morning. There'll be scions, donated by members, of maybe one-hundred different apple varieties at this session each year, along with a dozen pears, plums, apricots, and so on. Fruit growing is one of the few contexts in which Amish and "English" cultures come together, wholly absorbed in untried cultivars to add to one's orchard. We sadly had to skip the session yesterday, as we had too much else to do, but on our own will graft maybe thirty-ish fruit trees (mostly apples) over the coming coupla weeks.

Today is a transplanting day: a dozen apple trees grown from wild-collected specimens from Kazakhstan (where the species behind the apples you all know originated).

As for metaphoric pruning, I don't think we can successfully graft good wood on a now-rotten trunk, so it may be time to cut things back to the ground and let the rootstock try to send up something better. Farmers aren't into incremental; everything diseased must go.

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Lookout's picture

@dance you monster

In fact sometimes starting from scratch is better than trying to salvage diseased material.

On the other hand it is amazing to see an old tree top worked with new grafted material.

Best of luck with your trees! I hoped you might drop in to tell us about your projects.

We planted a couple more figs this winter. They seem to be doing well. Good growing friend!

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

First thought was "uh oh". With a title like "Pruning out the dead wood", that could mean a lot of things. Just sayin'.

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Lookout's picture

@Snode

What struck your fancy?

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

@Lookout got a little fed up.

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magiamma's picture

still have to do my apple tree, so this is very timely.

pruning climate chaos... hmmmm, well, 180 at mach nine... just sayin'

gosh darn it.

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Lookout's picture

@magiamma

...but perhaps we could if we tried. Sadly I don't think we will. The young ones are pushing so I keep hoping.

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with a demolition or metal cut blade, depending on thickness of the branch. With suckers, I use a rough cut to rip 'em quick.
Lightweight and maneuverable, it works well.

I've already mentioned(elsewhere) about lead poisoning.
High impact, that is.

For the OTHER pruning. Just a thought. . .

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Ya got to be a Spirit, cain't be no Ghost. . .

Lookout's picture

@Tall Bald and Ugly

...or as it is called locally a saw-saw. I use the coarse toothed wood blade. Great tool, thanks for mentioning it!

Lead poisoning should be a crime, but it is all about the Benjamin's, baby.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”