Thursday, March 27, 2014

A little dormant pruning

   I've got a lot of young trees on my farm and not every one of them has grown according to the strong central-leader plan. Take this tree for example (photo at right). This Kanza tree looks vase-shaped with several side shoots competing with the central leader for sunlight. I guess I should have made a few more trips to the pecan orchard last summer to direct the tree's growth with summer pruning.
    At this time of year, I'll make just a few corrective pruning cuts help shape this tree. I don't like to cut off too much at this time of year because dormant pruning often forces the tree to regrow in unexpected ways.
   As I approached the tree, I got a good look at this young tree's branch structure (photo at left).  Notice that most limbs have formed nice wide-angled attachments. However, look at the lowest limb on the tree pointed out in the photo by the orange arrow. This limb is almost the same diameter as the central leader and is growing upward in such a way as to directly complete with the main trunk for supremacy. This limb is a great example of how forked trees can develop over time if a pecan tree is left to grow unattended.
    Its easiest to spot tree structural problems during the dormant season when limbs are not hidden among the leaves.  So once I spotted this low limb growing straight upwards, I got out my pruning saw.

     Before I cut off the limb, I took out my sharpie pen and drew a line indicating the proper position for removing this limb (photo at right). By making an angled cut as shown, I'll leave the smallest possible wound on the tree and a wound that will heal over quickly. Since the tree was still dormant, I was able to cut some nice Kanza scionwood from the pruned-off branch.

   Next, I turned my attention to some upright growing limbs a little higher up into the tree's canopy (photo at left). The arrows in the photo point to two strongly upright growing limbs that had developed on the side of the tree opposite from the limb I had already removed (see above). In this case, I am not going to remove these limbs entirely. I am, however, going to head these limbs back to outward growing side shoots.

    I simply cut off the upright growing portion of these two shoots and left all outward growing shoots in place. Look carefully at the photo at left and you can see two fresh pruning cuts.
    After these cuts were made the upper portion of the central leader became fully exposed to sunlight. The additional sunlight should stimulate the development of lateral branches further up the trunk and encourage the leader to continue growing straight up.
   I'll be back to this tree once spring's new growth has begun and I can make additional pruning cuts to direct the growth.