Ann Wright: Fruit tree pruning and other ‘P’s’ of November
In addition to compost and mulch, one of the benefits of leaves falling is the opportunity to check out fruit trees without leaves getting in the way. As days grow shorter and temperatures drop, the growth of deciduous fruit and nut trees stops.
The dormant state begins as the trees’ internal processes (hormones within the tree) react to day length and temperature, where growth is prevented and the tree rests. As the leaves fall away, the overall structure of the trees and branches is more obvious.
Pruning dormant fruit and nut trees can be done from the beginning of leaf fall until buds begin to emerge.
The work of pruning can be appreciated as new trees are trained to produce strong branches and vigorous fruit production. In mature trees, pruning helps renew old growth and allow more sunlight to penetrate lower portions of the tree.
After leaf fall, it’s easier to see and remove dead, dying, damaged or diseased limbs. Limbs that are crossing or rubbing adjacent limbs can be identified and removed.
The final workshop
Fruit tree pruning can be a bit complicated and to help learn more about pruning, plan to attend the Nevada County Master Gardener’s workshop TODAY, “The Art and Science of Pruning Fruit Trees,” from 10 a.m. to noon at the Elk’s Lodge in Grass Valley, 109 South School Street.
This is the final workshop of the season, and is packed with information about pruning fruit trees — starting with the basics, including why we prune, when to prune, basic cuts, and how much to prune. The workshop will also identify the tools used for the job.
Following basics of pruning, presenters will show participants where the fruit grows on the tree, and how best to shape trees for optimum fruit production (training systems). A step-by-step list of how to begin your pruning experience will conclude the program.
As before, the workshop is free, and Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer home gardening questions.
Another hallmark “P” in November is the Persimmon!
Ripening from September to November, persimmons (Diospyros kaki ) are some of the most beautiful, interesting fruits available — and boasting shiny gold to orange skin. The leaves this time of year are also beautiful.
Tolerant of wet winters and dry summers, persimmon trees grow in different types of soil but do best in well drained loamy soil cultivated to allow growth of deep tap roots.
Persimmons are considered to be fairly drought tolerant but fruit production will improve with some regular irrigation during dry summer months. Persimmon trees also need space, and may grow to a height of 20 feet or more, depending on variety.
The Hachiya and Fuyu cultivars do well in our area and are found readily available at grower’s markets, grocery stores and from gracious neighbors! Classified as astringent and non-astringent, persimmon fruit can be a surprise to the unknowing.
Hachiya persimmons are acorn-shaped and are considered “astringent” based on the high levels of tannin in the fruit – these should be allowed to soften abundantly before consumption.
As the fruit softens and ripens, tannins will dissipate, leaving behind a mushy jelly-like wonder with a burst of flavor. Having been surprised to find the feel of bitter cotton wads in the mouth, one may quickly learn that these guys need to ripen. But what a treat when they do!
The Fuyu on the other hand, is considered “non-astringent” with firmer flesh that may be eaten right off the tree like an apple, or cut up into a fruit salad. The use of pruning shears will help harvest this fall fruit. Enjoy the fruits of the garden.
For questions related to the garden, contact the Master Gardeners hotline at 530-273-0919, or go to the website at http://www.ncmg.ucanr.org.
Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener.
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