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Making the cut: The ins and outs of effective pruning

When planting a fruit tree, the first cut is often the most difficult to make, but remember that keeping your tree limbs low will save you time and energy when it comes to harvesting and caring for your tree in the future.
When planting a fruit tree, the first cut is often the most difficult to make, but remember that keeping your tree limbs low will save you time and energy when it comes to harvesting and caring for your tree in the future.

January means different things to different people.

For some it means good books, bunny slippers and naps by the fire.

For avid gardeners, January is the time to grab a pair of pruners and head outside to the fruit trees and vines that await our attention. Careful pruning can make the difference between a bountiful crop of fruits and berries and an unhealthy, unproductive orchard. When we prune we get rid of dead and diseased branches and we improve the structure of a tree.

Probably the biggest reason for pruning can be understood if one recalls high school biology class (for some of us it’s a LONG way back!). Does the word photosynthesis ring a bell? It’s the process by which plants use sunlight as an energy source to convert water and carbon dioxide to sugars that are stored in the plant and oxygen, which goes back into the atmosphere. Important stuff! Proper pruning of trees allows more sunlight to get to the leaves of the trees where photosynthesis will occur.

Using the right technique is important. That’s where the Master Gardeners come in! Many locals have discovered the benefits of our monthly Advice to Grow By workshops, held in our own Garden of the Seven Sisters. One Saturday morning each month we offer a presentation on some relevant topic.

On Jan. 21 we’ll discuss winter pruning of fruit trees and berries.

We will begin with a general discussion of pruning, why we prune and what plants benefit from pruning at this time of year. Experienced Master Gardeners will then use our own orchard to demonstrate proper techniques in the hands-on portion of the workshop. You will learn the difference between a thinning cut and a heading cut. You will learn what tools will make the job more efficient. In other words, you will be prepared to approach your own backyard orchard (or single fruit tree) with confidence.

The workshop will be from 10 a.m. to noon at our garden at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo.

January weather can be unpredictable. Bring a hat, a jacket, a bottle of water and a friend or two and come join us for what will certainly be a fun and informative morning.

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