Monday, May 2, 2011

Spring pruning defines central leader

    A couple of weeks ago I wrote about pecan tree growth patterns and how it is important to prune during the spring to maintain a strong central leader. Yesterday, I was pruning some of my own trees and I was able to photograph an example of the pruning cuts I make at this time of year. Here is a young tree (pictured at left) that is displaying the typical pecan tree growth pattern I had discussed in my earlier post. Note the cluster of new growth at the top of the tree.
    A closer look at the upper portion of the tree reveals that the strongest shoot growing near the tree's apex sprouted from a bud  about 1.5 inches below the terminal bud (photo at right). This made my pruning decision easy. I pruned at the point marked "A" making an angled cut indicated by the red line. With one clip of the shears, I regained control of the tree's growth pattern and focused all that apical dominance energy onto one shoot.
    To further promote the new central leader, I also removed all lateral branches within 2 feet of the tree's top (photo at left). You can see the white wounds left by pruning off the lateral branches. Also note the prominent secondary buds still present below each cut. As the new central leader grows in height,  these secondary buds will break to form lateral branches with strong branch angles.
    It is truly amazing how a few minutes of spring pruning can make training young pecan trees so much easier. With spring pruning, you are directing the tree's future growth. Without spring pruning, you will be spending a lot more time and money correcting poor growth form with dormant pruning..