Crab apple pruning

The down side of using what clear weather we’ve had to keep on top of the mowing is, lots of other things aren’t getting done.

Today, we tackled one of those jobs (though I could easily have spent a couple of hours mowing).

We worked on pruning the dead wood out of the crab apple trees. This first one was losing the most.

Honestly, I think this one is probably a lost cause. It has a fungal disease, and much of it is already dead, but if we can save it, that would be great.

This next one is already completely dead.

Last year, the stems that were growing out of the base were still alive, so we left it. Not a sign of any life at all, this year.

Unless you count the ant hill that appeared at the base, or the fungus growing on it, we discovered last fall.

This last one is not too bad.

The main trunk of this tree – which my brother tells me was grafted on by my late father – has died, but the suckers that grew out of the base produced very well last year. They were decently larger, for a crab apple, and while it took quite a while for them to ripen compared to the other trees, once they did, they were the tastiest of them all.

Mind you, last year was not a good year for apples.

I had help, while doing this, and not just from my daughters…

What a silly boy! 😀

Here is how the trees look now.

There is not a lot left on that first one. On the stump we cut short, you can see little dots – those are ants! The last one is looking pretty good.

The pile of branches next to the first tree is what we cut away from these three areas.

After that, we decided to cut away the dead wood from the other trees.

I’d actually done a major pruning of dead wood on all the trees, our first summer here, and kept it up a bit last year, so I wasn’t expecting to remove all that much. Which is why I didn’t thing to take a before picture.

I was really amazed by how much dead wood we got out of these, and how much more open the trees looked! They were hard enough to clear on their own, with how much apple branches twist around each other, but with the trees planted so close together, they were also entangled in neighbouring branches! The biggest tree, in the middle of the photo, had a really surprising number of dead branches. This also makes it more dangerous to take them down. They catch on everything on the way down, and time and again, we’d bring down a branch that turned out to be much bigger than we’d expected it to be. They’d get caught on the other branches, and were quite difficult to remove.

Here is the final pile of branches.

All of this needs to be burned, due to the fungal infection. No salvage to be had, here. What a shame. While we did get a few dying branches with leaves still on them, this was almost all dead stuff. We did not actively try to prune any of the live branches.

Since we also have to burn out infected stumps, we’re leaving these branches here. When the conditions are right, I’ll be bringing a metal ring we’ve got to place over each stump and start a small fire. We need to burn out the stumps, but they are also under live branches, so we have to take care to keep the fire small enough not to affect those. While these will need to be done on separate days, weather willing, this pile will be used partly to feed the small fires, but also broken down and we’re just going to burn it in the garden. We’ll be able to have a slightly bigger fire, but not by much. Thanks to the rain we’ve been having, there would be no complete burn ban right now. So no controlled burning of fields, but yes to fire pits and burn barrels.

It was good to get this done! With how much more open the trees are, this should help increase yield quite a bit – though I think all the lovely rain we’ve had so far will play a much bigger part!

As an aside, we got some unexpected entertainment while working. At one point, we heard a tractor go by on the road. It was our vandal. Some time later, he made his return trip. I could just see him through the lilac hedge and something seemed… odd. It took a while to see him clearly, but the entire time he drove past us, he had one arm out, giving us the finger! 😀

So juvenile!

Which reminds me. Before we started on the trees, my daughter and I planted new sunflower seeds in the spaces that either didn’t sprout, or the sprouts got … eaten? Of the seeds we originally planted, we’ve got about a 50% loss, in total, between the two varieties. I found another variety in the grocery store that is supposed to be a large head, eating/bird seed type. It’s so late in the season, it’s hard to know if they’ll reach full growth, but even if they don’t, I’m hoping they’ll fill the gaps to be part of the wind break/privacy screen we also planted them for.

While we were putting things away, I spotted a pleasant surprise.

We put this up to encourage local pollinators last year, and not a single tube got used, so I was very happy to see some of them have been filled. It’s only in this one area, but hopefully, that means we’ll see more of them, over time.

I’m really glad to have gotten this job done. Now we just have to get rid of those branches, before things get overgrown again! 😀

The Re-Farmer

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