I love pruning fruit trees – when it works. I think I understand the theory and mechanics of it, but I have one lemon tree that totally defies my pruning objectives. Now Erica over at Northwest Edible Life has put out a blog post that explains pruning, from the essentials on up. I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.
Here’s how she approaches it:
What The Backyard Orchard Culture Grower Wants
- Healthy, long-lived, productive trees.
- A long harvesting period of family-appropriate quantities of fruit.
- Great quality fruit.
- Backyard-appropriate size (small – think fruit bushes, not fruit trees!).
- To never have to get out a ladder for any tree maintenance.
What A Fruit Tree – Any Fruit Tree! – Wants
- To reproduce by making seeds.
- To maximize captured sunlight and grow.
- To balance its root mass with its leaf canopy (this is so important I’m going to talk about it in depth below).
After reading through the rest of her post I now understand that my lemon tree is trying to meet these three objectives, but a the same time is trying to deal with restrictions imposed by being hard up against the end of a shadehouse. I have been pruning it without recognising the struggle it is going through. To find an image that would illustrate this problem, I just went through my collection of photos of the development of the garden – pretty huge and extending back over about ten years – there’s not a single one that includes the recalcitrant lemon tree. Sort of suggests how frustrated I am with my lack of pruning success with it .
Have a look at Erica’s post, it’s well worth not only reading but maybe making notes in your garden book, or dropping the post into your favourites list or database. I’ve just clipped it into DevonThink Pro so I can refer to it whenever I need to. Happy and successful pruning.
I read the whole article and it was good advice. What we have to be weary of in our harsh climate however, is when we prune excessively, the tree will put on growth to compensate. This is what Erica desires in her fruit trees on an urban block, where the soil would receive more irrigation than we could give ours. Its tough for fruit trees to survive our climate. To ask it to produce more shoots will cause extra stress, and invite pests to attack. Therefore how much we prune in summer, has to meet how much we’re prepared to feed and water the tree during summer too.
Where you’ve positioned your lemon tree is exactly where I’ve positioned mine – next to a shade house. It’s doing poorly as well. I put it down to a lack of air flow, a lack of water when evaporation is high and probably not enough light. Pruning is on the agenda now the excessive heat of summer has passed. We also have to clear away some weedy native sapling growth nearby, as its getting thick enough to restrict breezes reaching our lemon tree.
Unfortunately though, I think the lemon tree will just have to go – I picked the wrong spot. In a few years time the mulberry will be big enough to block breezes and light too. Live and learn. 🙂