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This month, we hosted a pruning workshop with biodynamic grower Kai Lange. Kai has been coming to guide the process of pruning at Global Gardens for the last five years.

What do fruit trees need?

We began the workshop with a focus on exploring why we prune. We discussed how light and air flow are essential for fruit tree health, and essential for fruit ripening. This is particularly important in Wales where we can be subject to damp weather conditions and limited light levels.

Why prune?

Pruning can be a useful technique for promoting tree health, preventing pest and disease and ensuring branches get adequate amounts of light and warmth, both of which are vital for fruit ripening. Remember the three D's - dead, diseased and damaged. Start with removing any dead, diseased or damaged branches and then move on to any crossing branches. Certain kinds of pruning can encourage fruit trees to direct energy into fruit formation, in turn resulting in higher yields and bigger, tastier fruit. Pruning can also help create a balanced tree structure which makes harvesting more enjoyable!

Avoiding over-pruning

However, it is important to note that over-pruning can cause excessive regrowth and water shoots. To minimise this, it is recommended to prune no more than one-third of branches each year. If you do have water shoots, Kai recommends continuously cutting back water shoots every year and gradually they will retract.

Stages of fruit tree growth

  • Infant: needs a lot of care and support, potentially extre fertility and staking.

  • Child: needs continued guidance and support, creating the foundations for good growth. - this could include formative pruning and choice of 4-5 main fruiting branches.

  • Adolescence: reducing levels of input but may still need guidance/support/training - such as pruning branches above a bud to encourage branching in a certain direction.

  • Adulthood: this is the time for fruiting but, as weith humans, there can also be scope for radical change!

  • Elder: this is a time when we move away from focussing on the fruit tree as bearing fruit and move towards recognising the tree as a veteran tree with an important role as a habitat for biodiversity.

Maintenance Pruning in the Kitchen Garden

This year, it was pleasing to note that the trees in our Kitchen Garden area which were planted in 2016 are making the transition from "adolescent" trees to "adult" trees. This means we are moving away from "formative" to "maintenance" pruning. Whilst formative pruning is focussed around creating the main structure of the tree, maintenance pruning is more about ongoing support of tree health and enhancing fruit tree yield. Nipping out of the buds by one-third to a half encourages energy into fruit formation.

Formative Pruning in the Community Orchard

In our community orchard, we focussed on formative pruning of the four year old apple trees which were planted in 2021, with a focus on healthy, balanced fruit tree structure.

Biodynamic Tree Paste

We also applied the Biodynamic Tree paste on the trees after pruning. The paste is made with clay, cow manure, lime and some compost. Find out more about the tree paste here. The tree paste can aid healing of wounds assist in healing wounds, reduce pest damage and improve tree vitality, particularly of damaged or ailing trees.

Many thanks to the National Lottery Community Fund in Wales for supporting this workshop. Find out more about or 2024 Grow Your Own programme here.


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