Roughly 80 orchard enthusiasts gathered at the Southwest Colorado Research Station Thursday morning for the annual pruning workshop.
Hosted by the Colorado State University Extension offices in Montezuma and Dolores counties, the workshop offered interested individuals a hands-on opportunity to gather information about pruning fruit trees.
Weve been doing the workshop in partnership with the research station for close to 14 years, said Tom Hooten, interim director of the Montezuma County extension office. We used to just get 15 to 20 participants, but about five years ago there was all of a sudden a big explosion and ever since then we have anywhere from 60 to 80 people every time.
The research station provides a unique setting for the workshop with three acres worth of production-level fruit trees. Each year, roughly 24,000 pounds of fruit are harvested at the station, mostly through a U-pick program which allows area residents an opportunity to take advantage of the orchard.
Dolores County Extension Director Dan Fernandez led the pruning workshop, detailing topics such as timing, equipment and technique. The audience Thursday mostly comprised hobbyists, not large-scale fruit growers.
Fernandez opened the workshop by discussing the proper time to prune fruit trees.
The best time to start is now, he said. You want to make sure the trees are still dormant, before bud break. If you prune in late October or November, you run the risk of stimulating new growth and then when you get a freeze you may face significant tree damage.
The emphasis at the workshop was pruning for fruit production. Fernandez said the manner in which a tree is pruned will have an impact on the quality and quantity of fruit yield.
When you prune you are looking for form, production, symmetry and support, Fernandez said. You want to find the best balance between fruit production and growth.
When pruning, the proper angle for branches is between 45 and 60 degrees, Fernandez said. Spacers and tie-backs are useful tools in training branches to grow at a proper angle.
In terms of making cuts, growers were encouraged to use common sense and instinct, along with envisioning what the tree will look like once it bears fruit.
Try to envision that 3-inch peach or apple in that tree, Fernandez said. Also remember the pruning is not just for this season but for next.
Fernandez cautioned growers against over-pruning new trees, stating a transplanted trees first year must focus on growth.
You have a tree coming from outside the area and it arrives already shocked to heck, Fernandez said. The old method was to put the tree in the ground and then rip it up, but what you have done is eliminate the reserve. Eliminate broken branches and do heading cuts, but allow the tree that first year to establish roots and grow.
Fernandez spent some time discussing pruning equipment, noting tools run the price range from inexpensive to quite expensive and growers should use whatever works best and is most comfortable to them.
In terms of designing a pruning strategy, Fernandez said growers should lay out goals for their trees.
When you start you need to take into consideration what is your management plan long-term and what equipment do you have, Fernandez said. Answering those questions will allow you to figure out what you need to do for your trees.
For more information, contact the Montezuma County extension office at 565-3123.
Reach Kimberly Benedict at [email protected]