Fruit Tree Pruning

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It’s February now, and in some parts of the country probably still an acceptable time to prune fruit trees. Here in the Pacific Northwest however it is a little late for pruning. I did all our fruit trees in the first week of January. You want to try to time heavy pruning with tree’s dormancy. This way it will not effect their health or growth near as much. I was looking out side at my pruned trees, now covered in lovely buds which will this year be new growth, and it made me think a little. I had a father who was very good about explaining fruit tree pruning, and every year I was helping him outside in the bitter cold, getting first hand experience when i was growing up. I realized,however, probably not everybody grew up on a farm like i did, and probably did not have all those wonderful years of experience. How can other people learn if people like us never tell them? So, I thought I would write a blog for every one that has ever wondered how to prune fruit trees. 

    This will be like a tree pruning 101. There are so many factors, goals, desires, tricks, and different ways of doing things for pruning that really it mostly depends on a balance of what you know and what you are wanting out of your tree.

    The basic first step in tree pruning is shape. How do you want your tree shaped? Most trees you will want a kind of umbrella shape, for easily obtainable sunlight for the fruit, and also for easier harvesting. If you are starting with a fairly young tree, then you can decide how tall it will be by cutting out the top at the desired height, where new growth will grow a for next year. Determine the height you desire, and the general shape, and general size (circumference), and keep that vision in your head while you prune.

 Next, grab your cutting tools. (shears, loppers, a pruning saw maybe) and start thinning out unwanted growth. If a branch is totally undesirable then cut it off as close to the trees trunk as you can. If most of the branch is ok, or you want to start a new growth into a branch, then you prune the branch into how you want it to grow. Keep the part you want, and cut off the extra. Now here is where it gets kind of tricky. anything unwanted gets totally cut off and removed, but if the branch lets say has potential, but no small fruit bearing areas or “spurs”, then save desired new growth from last year, cut if off about 1/2 to 3/4 inch past a bud. Picking the right bud is the trick. The key is, which ever direction a bud is pointing, that is the direction the new growth will grow this year. For example: a bud on the left of a branch pointing out, will grow to the left and out, a bud pointing up will grow up, a bud pointing down will grow downward, and so on. So just remember when you are shaping a tree, those buds that you leave for the new growth MUST be pointed in the direction that your vision of the tree requires.

    And as i said before, for best results and sun collection I shape my fruit trees like an umbrella. Other trees that are for shade, lumber, etc. are generally shaped in more of a triangle, where a fruit tree is more of an upside down triangle. Remember you are not wanting to grow a 50′ tall apple tree, the fruit would be 30′ above your head and serve you no good.

 

 

Catching Rain

I am sitting in my comfortable recliner, some annoying cartoon on tv that my 3 year old is watching, the fire next to me roasty and toasty, and on the window panes the rain beats hard. The past week or so it has been half way decent weather out, but here in early spring with fresh new fruit trees in the ground, seeds planted in the garden, we need a rain. Which brings me to my topic of the day. Catching, and using rain to our benefit, not work against us, and here in western Oregon we get TONS of rain! Lets start off by first mentioning that in spring, rain is needed to help growing trees and shrubs establish root systems, and provide water for the growing plant to begin structural growth, bud development, and over all cell structure. With out the rain, plants would just wither away and die. Same for seeds planted in gardens or flowerbeds. The rain is needed to keep these seeds moist and germinate so they can sprout and grow up through the earth. One way of harnessing rain that some may not think of, is i store rain water. I have rain collection units around teh farm here, from 5-gallon buckets at the bottom of gutter down spouts, to rubber maid tubs catching rain off the wood shed roof. Why would I collect rain water you ask? Well, if I was in the city the use of rain water for plants would be super beneficial due to city water containing so much cholorine and flouride and such and would provide the plants with a more pure and nitrogen enriched source of water. However, we do have a well here on the farm, so the purity of the water is not an issue. Mostly i use the collected water for animals. The rabbits and the chickens both live off the collected rain water (except in the summer, then it is well water). Its also handy sometimes having some easily accesible water for washing off farm or garden tools, rinsing off eggs, washing off dirty hands what ever. Rain is our friend, not our enemy, and has a million uses. As the years progress I intend on expanding my rain catching system to something a little more substantial, but in the mean time what i have will have to work. Happy rain catching every one.

Cuttin’ Kindlin’

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It was a bit chilly this morning so i made my way out to the wood shed for an arm load of wood and a handfull of kindling to get rid of the morning chill in the house. I saw my Kindling box was empty. An often occurance that I am sure many of you know. So i packed the wood into the house, then set off back outside for some morning twilight kindling chopping. Usually I will chop enough to fill my box, and stop there. The box is approx 2ft long x 1.5ft wide x 1.5ft tall. It holds enough kindling for a couple of weeks any ways. So If illed the boxy, grabbed and handful, and went back into the house and got a fire going. With the fire soon roaring and wood stacked into the stove and heat for the morning secured, I thought about my often occuring lack of kindling, and how much I really don’t care for chopping sticks in the freezing cold right before daylight. So I figured I should go out and chope a little more to play catch up. I filled the box to the brim, and still had some left over. I had an idea, and just kept on chopping. Once i had a small mountain of kindling all chopped and a couple of hours gone, I went to work tying bundles. Basically a bundle holds a few handfulls of kindling sticks (probably 2-3 days worth in each). Tied the bundles with extra pieces of string, crap rope, and bailing twine, just what ever cordage i had laying around the wood shed area. In all I chopped 15 bundles, on top of filling my box. My thought, is I stacked all the bundles into the wood pile, and will save them for next year’s use. The box I will use for this years. Next time my box gets empty, I will fill it and chope 15 more bundles. Doing the same process of storage. I figure that way it wont take but a few more cuttings, and i will have enough kindling for the whole winter next near.

Every year once fire building is all said and done, and we are into long hot summer days. I go to the wood shed, and throw every single stick of wood into the lawn. I then add and stack all the wood I cut during the winter to season into the back of the wood shed, stacking my way out. Once all of the wood I cut in the fall winter and spring are all stacked in there, then i restack all the dry wood I threw in the lawn from before. This gives me a good, and evenly dry/drying Cache of firewood. It is a bit of work, but like food or water storage, you gotta rotate. Any ways, this summer when i will be restacking all my wood, I will add these kindling bundles into the wood pile here and there every couple square feet. i am thinking this way, for next winter, when i go out to the shed to get wood for the day, i can grab an arm load of wood, grab a bundle, and all my fire needs will be met in one single trip, instead of one trip for wood, and another trip out in the eraly morning snow and/or rain to cut more kindling that I ran out of. So any ways, gonna give this idea a try, thought I would post and update the folks here on wordpress that fallow “Prepper Farming.”

Rock Bed Herb Garden

So it always seems like our farm produces more rocks and boulders than it does crops and livestock! No, actually things grow great here, but when we excavated the land when i was building the house i now have an overwelming stockpile or rocks and boulders. I definately bought a rocky piece of ground. However, instead of letting it get me down, I figured out a way to make the rocks work for me instead of against me.

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Between my pump house and an electrical tranformer (which i had already built a rock wall around to hide the ugly electrical box) I built a large rock garden bed, filled it with dirt, and it will be our “Herb Garden.”

It is still a bit early in the spring (3-11-13) to be planting alot of the herbs yet, but when the weather warms up i will plant all the seeds into the ground and let her grow. I have a fairly large collection of seeds from last spring that i purchased, with ambition of making some kind of herb growing bed. However, every day farm work, kids, and our jobs (wife is a Nurse, i am a Logger), getting an herb bed just never got done. So now, this year the bed is all done, the seeds are waiting, and we will be cooking and BBQ’ing with fresh herbs all summer! Yummy!

My design and construction of the bed may not be perfect, was just my thoughts, reasons, and materials i had at that given time, and is as fallows:

 The bed is placed on a natural ditch and water flowing line (was excavated for water and power lines to the house, so water kinda naturally flows in that area in heavy rains). To avoid over saturation of the soil and herbs, I shallowly dug up any grass in that general area. I then went into the field and packed every single rock by hand over and tossed over the fence landing next to the work area. Once i had a good supply of rocks, I started lining them up and setting them all in place so that they would not only hold in the soil, but also look halfway pleasing to the eye. Once the bed was all shaped i then used a five gallon bucket and a shovel, and placed in Approx. 2 inches of gravel in the bottom of the bed. I did this in thoughts of it will give good drainage for the herbs, but also as a water and drainage barrier for heavy springtime rains and the water that flows underneath the bed. This way the water should have a place to still flow, but not flood out my herb garden, making it a big swampy soupy mess. Any ways, once I smoothed all the gravel out i then used the tractor and got some extra soil i have piled up in numerous places around the farm and dumped it into the herb garden, smooting it out and plucking rocks sticks and weeds by hand. then Voila! Rock bed herb garden complete.

As far as the herbs i will be planting in there they include: Mint (already planted in there now), Rosemary, Chives, Basil, Horse raddish (have it growing in a pot, need to plant it in my new herb bed), Cilantro/Corriander, Stevia, Dill, Thyme, Terragon, Oregano, Sage, and i am wanting to also pick up some spearmint when ever the local store starts stocking the plants. I was thinking maybe some Lavander also since i know it is edible just to add a little color to the bed, but i may try cooking with it a bit and dabble with it before i  plant any.

While i was making the rock bed herb garden I also built along side the drive way a rock bed flower and shrub bed. I currently have some small trees in there and some flowers and shrubs, but the trees will be removed and transplanted to a different location once they are bigger and a little more mature and stable.074

I am using it for kind of an incubation/baby nursing bed for the young trees, giving them a place for them to grow a bit, establish a good root system, get used to the soil, etc. The trees that are there now but will be removed in a year or two and placed in a final location include: Oriental Spruce, Colorado Blue spruce, Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir, White Fir (also known as a Piss Fir), a Willow tree, and a Golden rain tree. As far as decorative things that will stay are Forsynthias and Tulips, and will let the wife add what ever flowers she would like to add color. This smaller rock bed is purely decorative, basically just some eye candy along side the drive way (placed it up against a rock jack i build for the fence) as we/people travel up and down the driveway.