This week Mr. C. shows us how to "prune" a "plum" tree (and other kinds too).
To protect your investment and to get the best yield, trees should be pruned each year, especially, but not limited to the spring and fall. All fruit trees grow "water sprouts" (yes, that is really what they are called). They are vigorous growths (similar to suckers on tomato plants) which usually grow straight up from the trunk or branches. Remove them easily by snapping them off - don't cut them as that will stimulate regrowth. You can usually spot them by the lighter leaf color. Obviously I wasn't watching for them becauce these should have been removed before they got this large. See the before and after shots below.
Even for trees planted this year, you should lop off any dead, diseased, inward growing, and overlapping branches. I apply a "pruning & wound dressing" to seal the cuts. Also remove any suckers from the parent root below the graft. During this routine maintenance, I discovered some ugly brown/black growth on several branches. I consulted with a tree expert at Agway (Master Gardener Joe). In their book of plant diseases, we found a matching picture of a fungus called "Black Knot". It is said to be very contagous an is most apt to affect cherry trees (I have one 10 feet from this plum tree). He said to cut back 4 to 6 inches, then dip the shears in clorox between and after each cutting. Wipe and oil the shears before storing them. Then apply an anti-fungal spray (which is available in a organic formula) to the entire tree to limit it's spread to other branches and to adjacent trees. I took the following picture before I burned them.
Black Knot Disease
There are more aggressive methods which commercial growers employ to boost production, sometimes disregarding beauty. Ex. a local grower just topped (cut all out-of-reach branches) from their full size cherry trees while they have ripe fruit on them. To view an excellent government website covering pruning methods, click here.
I hope you have enjoyed the two non-gardening articles on fruit trees, even though many of you don't have any trees (yet). I will probably sprinkle in other subjects (like lawn weed control, etc.) from time to time, but next week I plan to talk about herb gardens.
Till then - Happy Gardening - Mr. C.