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Preparing your orchard for the new gardening year

Plant and shape pruning of fruit trees
Cultivating a round crown on pip and stone fruit trees

Preparing your orchard for the new gardening year

Did you plant fruit trees on fast or medium-growing root beds in autumn or spring? If so, it's time to prune them. For the round crowns we need a central shoot and three leader branches, which are fixed by tying together. The three leader branches are at 45° to the central shoot and are trimmed by about 1/3 to the same horizontal level. The pictures below illustrate this.

Shaping and crown development must be started in the second year after planting.

The following sequence of steps is important for crown formation:

  • Train the leader branch at 45° to the central shoot. Particular attention must be paid to this during the first 5-6 years of shaping.
  • Remove all competing shoots on the leader branches. What we mean by competing shoots are strong, long shoots growing upwards from directly under the leader branches. These shoots often grow stronger than the leader shoots and therefore compete with them.
  • Short shoots should be left interspersed.
  • The three leader shoots are trimmed to the same height on the year-old shoot. The central shoot is cut slightly higher than the leader branch. It is important that alternating pruning is carried out every year here: one year to an outside bud on the left and the next year to an outside bud on the right. This ensures that the future central branch grows straight.

Shape pruning should be continued until the desired crown height is achieved - generally about 5 to 6 years.

Plant protection in orchards
Plant protection essentially means protecting the plants. Chemical pesticides are not always the first choice here. The preconditions for good development of a fruit tree must be laid during planting. This starts with selecting the varieties and preparing the planting hole and finishes with the hygiene measures in the orchard. Encouraging beneficial insects in the garden is particularly important.

Hygiene
Any remaining fallen leaves should be removed from the orchard in March. This reduces the likelihood of the orchard becoming infected with scab and other fungal diseases. However, it is also important to remove fruit mummies and clip away dead branches caused by brown rot when pruning the fruit trees. At the same time, the opportunity should be taken to check the fruit trees for pest infestation.

Protection of bees

  • Blossoming fruit trees should only be treated with bee-safe pesticides when acutely needed.
  • Blossoming fruit trees should only be treated towards evening time, when bees are no longer active. Particular attention must also be paid to blossoming secondary cultures.

VIKING garden expert
Manfred Putz

Photo source: Heinz Gatscher, Tiroler Baumwärterverband