Pruning the apple and pear trees is a huge task every winter. We aim to have the pear trees done before Christmas and do the apple trees in the New Year. We're behind schedule this year. Bright, mild, dry days like today make a difference. Unfortunately for our pruning team they have been out there every day for the past two months, in bitter cold, wind, rain, and sleet.
The cold always gets through no matter how well wrapped you are and at the very least you end up with cold feet, especially at Wrabness where the wind comes straight off the river. We use electric pruners powered by a battery back-pack, which save us from RSI to our hands and wrists, but you always feel like you've done a hard day's work!
Modern pruning techniques
We use modern pruning techniques that are so different from traditional methods, that we prefer not to use people who are used to the old approach because it's too easy for them to revert to old habits!
The finished rows of pruned pear trees are a perfect example of the Dutch art of click pruning. Growth is carefully controlled and managed to defeat biennial bearing. Branches are clicked, tied, and removed or split to guarantee fruit for this year, wood for next year and, above all, light in abundance throughout the tree.
Wildlife in the orchards
The Braeburn and Opal orchards are home to flocks of fieldfares, starlings and clouds of finches and other smaller birds. Footprints on the ground giving away night-time visits by fox, badger and deer. The Muntjac seem to pop out from amongst the trees on every visit.
We've not yet started work in these orchards but the pruning is different again from the pears. The Braeburns are turning 10 years old (grown up in apple tree years) and demand one approach while we are still feeling our way with Opal, younger trees with different growth habits meaning you can’t slip into auto-pilot – which is probably a good thing when using secateurs.
It may still feel like winter, despite today’s blue skies, but the fat fruit buds on the trees can’t help but give a little promise to warmer, more fruitful times ahead.