Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Summer pruning: Techniques up close

   I was working with my young pecan trees and was making some directive pruning cuts when I stopped to photograph a couple of the techniques I use in training trees.

   I always start at the top  of the tree to make sure the tree is still growing a single central leader. By the first of June, this young tree (2nd summer after grafting) had already added over three feet of new growth to the leader but I spotted trouble already. Look carefully at the photo at right and you'll see a stalked bud at each node. Allowing these stalked buds to grow would be a guaranteed way of losing the central leader in a thicket of narrow angled branches. 

   The easiest time to remove stalked buds is right after they form on soft and green shoots. To remove the stalked bud, I just grab the bud with my fingers, pull the bud to one side of the stem, and snap off the bud (photos above). Wait a couple of more weeks to perform summer pruning and you will need a pair of clippers to remove fully formed and hardened stalked buds.

     After addressing the central leader, I move down to the lateral branches. Following the 2 foot rule, I headed back all the lateral branches that had already exceeded 2 feet of new growth. When making the heading back cuts, I always prune to an outward growing bud (photos above). In this case, I was also careful to remove the stalked bud when I made the cut. Heading back existing lateral branches will help keep the tree more compact and will promote the growth of new lateral branches along blind portions of the central leader (areas well below the top of the tree that lack lateral branches).