Thanks to Herb Machleder and his phenomenal team for coming out to 24th Street Elementary School garden to lead a summer pruning and fruit tree maintenance workshop!
The event was a success thanks to the many volunteer teachers and students who showed up to practice summer fruit tree care on our 60 fruit trees. Herb and other local experts took the time to teach us about how to clean and sharpen our pruning shears and loppers on a regular basis, using rubbing alcohol, wire brushes, turpentine, and a sharpening stone. This practice is helpful to stop the spread of disease from one tree to another, make clean cuts to the branches and increase the lifespan of your tools.
We also learned the importance of applying Tanglefoot to the trunks of our trees as the first step in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to keep away pests such as gypsy moths, cankerworms, weevils, ants, aphids, various caterpillars, webworms, climbing cutworms and the diseases they will inevitably bring to our trees. Remember when applying this goop (which can be done year round) to first put down a paper barrier, which you will then apply Tanglefoot to; this is done to avoid direct contact with the tree trunk.
Herb and his fellow experts showed us different pruning and shaping techniques. During a summer pruning, you want to keep to thinning cuts because it helps to manage the size of the tree and slows down growth. The thinning cuts are done at an angle right above the terminal bud. The terminal bud is the bud at the end of a twig marking the end of that year's growth. By thinning our trees, we are ensuring that all branches get optimal sun exposure, allowing them to grow naturally, stay healthy and produce a decent fruit set each year.
And finally, among many other topics, we were reminded of the importance of thinning our fruit. This is the most challenging part of fruit tree care!! That is, removing around half of the fruit set from each tree in order to maintain tree health, produce sweet, tasty and large fruit, keep branches safe from breaking, and allow for a yearly harvest. While this is a painful process, it always helps our trees to produce the most delicious fruit.
In the end our minds are overflowing with new ideas of how to best care for these prolific plants. And if you have time to stop by our garden you will see how happy and healthy our trees are after the much-needed pruning, thinning and application of Tanglefoot. We look forward to seeing all of you at our next workshop, so stay tuned!