Monday, July 9, 2018

Summer pruning a young pecan tree

    With the weather unbearably hot this summer, my trips to the pecan orchard seem to be confined to the early morning hours. The other day, I noted a young Kanza tree that appeared top heavy and bending over toward the north (photo at right). In Kansas, a strong south wind blows most summer days causing almost all young trees to develop an obvious lean to the north. However, this tree was too top heavy, had no strong central leader and lacked lower lateral branches. This tree needed some attention and summer pruning is the best way to get this tree back in shape.
     This tree was too tall for me to prune from the ground so I grabbed my eight foot tall orchard ladder (photo at left). With the ladder in the photo, you can see that the tree is roughly 12 to 13 feet in height.
    Climbing the ladder, I got a closer look at the branching structure at the top of the tree. I count 5 new shoots that have sprouted from the terminal of last year's central leader (photo at right). To remove some of the excess weight at the top of the tree and to reestablish a central leader, all but one of these shoots need to be pruned off.

    I chose to keep the most upright growing shoot and pruned off the others. I kept the lateral shoot at the bottom of the photo because had a nice wide branch angle.
    The lateral branch I decided to keep near the top of the tree was nearly 4 feet in length (photo at right). To slow the growth of this lateral limb and to stimulate the growth of additional lateral branches along lower portions of the central leader, this limb needed pruning.

    I used the 2-foot rule and cut the lateral back to 2 feet in length. In making the cut, I always prune just above a downward facing bud. This will help direct any re-growth outwards rather that upwards to compete with the central leader.

  I finished pruning this tree by cutting all new lateral shoots to two feet in length (photo at left). The pruning of lateral shoots stimulates bud break along the trunk and will serve to fill out the central portion of this tree's canopy. The tree is still leaning to the north but it is no longer top heavy and prone to wind breakage.