Pruning Apple Trees

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Spring finally arrived this week and with it came the start of spring work.  Right now I’m pruning some of our apple trees using the new chainsaw I got for Christmas.

The orchard is full of mature apple trees that are badly overgrown.  Many have heavy limbs right near the ground and are a mass of tangled growth.  It is very difficult for me to mow close to the trees.  To keep the orchards all apples, every year any wild tree sprouts must be cut.  Otherwise our orchards would soon be woods.  Since there are so many limbs in the way, I have to cut invasive saplings under the trees by hand before they become too big.  Being unable to mow close to trees also allows the Virginia creeper, wild grapes and nightshade a chance to climb up the trunks and weigh down the branches.

Every spring for the past several years we have limbed up a few apple trees.  Each tree that is pruned makes my mowing job that much easier.  So far this year I’ve done seven trees.  Much of the brush will be chipped. The best brush is sold for apple wood Gnawers in my online stores.  The smaller limbs I cut up for our firewood.  The larger limbs are left long, anywhere from two to six feet long.  This wood will be sold to meat smokers.  I have already sold the first cord I collect.  A man saw me working in the orchard today and stopped to buy the wood from me.  There must be nearly half a cord already cut.

In the before photo, above, and after photo, below, the difference in accessibility after the pruning is obvious. I will be able to mow right up to the tree.  The lowest limbs are high enough for the tractor to pass beneath. When the ground is a little drier, I will return with a trailer hitched to the tractor.  I can stand in the trailer and reach some of the higher limbs that still need pruning.  To finish the job, I will use a pole pruner, or climb the tree and cut away excess growth with a pruning saw.  Right now clearing the low limbs for mowing is the priority.

Note the assistant pruners in the photos, Holly and Otto, the German shepherds.  They are never far away.a2

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