Late-winter tree pruning


On a seasonal late-winter morning my friend and hunting partner Rick Goodman and I decided to take a snowshoe trek into our friend’s hunting camp, which we frequent quite often during the autumn months. This Adirondack deer camp is in a remote area and is accessible during the warm-weather months by a dirt road that doubles as a snowmobile trail in the winter.

It’s about a mile up the trail to the driveway of the camp, then another 100 yards or more uphill to the camp itself. So the trek would provide some much-needed exercise.

But this was about more than stretching our legs, as we wanted to accomplish something. So I packed my cordless pole saw, two rechargeable batteries and a pair of brush nippers. Rick brought along a fine quality hand saw and some hand pruners.

Growing outside the camp are about six or eight scrawny but branchy crabapple trees in much need of some TLC. Sure, we’d like to the see these trees produce a better apple crop for the local deer herd, but what a good pruning would really do for them is give us more parking room and make it easier to mow the grass in the summertime.

As soon as we got to the camp we went to work, knowing we’d only get so much time out of the batteries on a cold day. Although I’ve done my share of tree pruning on my own property, Rick, who by trade is a resort property manager and a master gardener, made sure I played by the rules.

“When you prune a tree, the first thing you want to do is take off any dead limbs. They just create avenues for pathogens,” he said. “The next thing you want to prune is any limbs that criss-cross each other because again, the rubbing opens up places for the tree to get disease. You also want to prune suckers – anything that grows straight up.”

We did just that, however focusing on criss-crossing limbs that drooped down and therefore were obtrusive. In no time several branches were on the ground and the first of two batteries had expired.

Next, we moved onto some the bigger trees and branches where Rick advised, “if you’re going to prune a fairly large tree, you want to first cut underneath, so that when you prune from the top it doesn’t rip the bark and make a place for disease to get in. You want to be about a half-inch from the trunk, so it leaves a collar.”

We stuck with Rick’s plan and before long, battery number two was toast. We finished up with the hand saw and brush cutters, clipping some of the tiny shoots that tend to grow upward along an apple tree trunk. Then we went into the camp, checked things over and wrote in the log book before hiking back to the truck.

If you have apple, or any other fruit trees growing on your property, now is the time to consider giving them a haircut. And Rick advises never to cut more than one third of a tree’s limbs.

Not only might you have some happy wildlife, you’ll have some nice apple wood to use in a food smoker, and the satisfaction of doing something yourself.

Categories: Dan Ladd

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