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Today we hosted a pruning workshop led by biodynamic grower Kai Lange as part of our "Fruit Tree Care" series.

Kai has 30 years of growing experience on biodynamic farms and horticultural therapy projects in Denmark and the UK. He has been coming to help guide us on how to prune our apple trees for the last 4 years. .

Domesticating Fruit Trees

To begin the session, Kai explained how, in nature, trees tend to frurit on the edge of the tree canopy. Pruning is a kind of domestication of fruit trees with the aim of 1) encouraging trees to fruit more and 2) creating more space for the accessing of fruits. Giving more space helps support the ripening of fruit by supporting the circulation of air and light..

We explored how different rootstocks determine size and vigour. Different varieties can also affect how a tree grows.

As above, so below

We also spoke about the effect of pruning on future growth.

The shape of a canopy is largely reflected in the roots. If we heavily prune a tree, the roots will still think that the canopy is the same size. If a tree has looses a lot of the canopy, water shoots can occur. Becaue the tree thinks it needs more water than the reduced branches require. This is why it is advised to prune gradually removing no more than around 20-30% of branches per year.

However, Kai reassured us that nature is forgiving. So if we make too drastic a cut, fruit trees, will still recover.

The different stages of tree growth

From an anthroposophical perspective, trees move through different growth stages which can be compared to human development.

Early tree stage: Child stage

In an early tree stage, trees require the best conditions to give them a good start. Ths includes planting them with their roots properly spread out and giving the base a good dose of soil whether woodchip or compost.

Formative stage Teenage stage

As a tree matures, it is important to make more formative cuts. These cuts support the shape and structure of the tree. Kai recommended following an approach where we select a central "leader" and 3-5 supporting "laterals." At the formative stage, this can be a time when we take quite dramatic cuts to the direction of growth. Kai suggested it is good at the teenage stage for trees to have a challenge and build up resilience.

Maintenance and Restorative pruning: Adulthood

As a tree develops into a well-structured tree form with sufficient space to allow for sufficient air circulation and light. This is a time when we focus our pruning effrots on enhancing fruiting - so removing some branches and cutting back to fruit buds in many cases. Kai suggested trees in the "adult" phase can cope with quite dramatic changes. However, they might throw out watershoots if they are heavily pruned and these watershoots will need to be cut back the following year. .

Veteran trees: Elder

As a tree reaches older age, it is important to be more cautious with cuts made. Some veterant trees are best left as "elders" rather than heavily pruning them. These elders provide a vital role in the orchard by providing wildlife with their crevices and fallen limbs.

Tree Paste

At the end of the session, we applied "tree paste" - acombination of cow manure, clay, lime and diatomaceous rock. Bark is treated like soil and the bud like seed,. Applying the tree paste can support trees to take on nutrients and heal wounds.

With huge thanks to the Lottery for making this workshop possible.


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