The one mature apple tree on our property needed pruning.
Almost three years ago, we planted five apple trees, four pear trees, and a peach tree in various spots around the farm. While these timber babes are starting to need the occasional trim here and there, they are, for the most part, still too young to need much in the way of maintenance.
The Big Guy, however, needs loads of trimming in order to ensure healthy growth and to avoid having branches break under the weight of fruit at the height of the summer growing season.
Interestingly, this particular tree seeems to only produce apples every other year. This may be due to the type of wild apple tree it is, OR it may be due to the fact that it wasn’t regularly/properly pruned for many years. Possibly both.
Furthermore, the apples it does produce are really, really terrible.
But, even really terrible apples are worthwhile. For one, the pigs and goats LOVE them. For two, when cooked and sweetened, they make wonderful apple sauce. For three, when juiced and fermented, they make a perfectly good cider vinegar.
So, we do what it takes to maintain the tree.
The easiest part is removing the vertical shoots that grow up from the main branches.
The not-so-easy part is climbing to the very top to do the maintenance that really needs the most doing.
The idea behind pruning is to allow the tree to grow in a way that benefits it.
Left to its own devices, a tree such as this will become a wild tangle of growth that will eventually criss-cross itself to the point of preventing sunlight to reach the lower branches.
This is would be like sitting out in the sun to get your much-needed vitamin D with a tarp over your head.
And that’s not good.
So, we remove any large branches that might be blocking too much light from reaching the branches below, any diseased or broken branches, any growing vertically or straight down, and any growing inward to the tree’s center.
All of this upkeep needs to happen annually to ensure the continued healthy growth of the tree.
And we’ve done that to the best of our admittedly-limited ability.
But we still can’t reach the top.