by Glen Arnold, Putnam County
With the coming of March and warmer weather many gardeners are turning their attention to pruning grapevines and fruit trees. Grapevines and fruit trees require regular and timely maintenance to produce the delicious fruits we all highly prize.
A Northern Ohio Small Fruit School will be held Wednesday, March 16th in Hancock County at the OSU Extension office. There is a $10 fee payable at the door. The time is 12:45 pm to 4:15 pm. Topics will include Finding Sources for Small Fruit Plants, Strawberry Production, Drip Irrigation of Small Fruit and General Care of Small Fruit. Here is the link to see the flyer and to register online: http://hancock.osu.edu/events/northern-ohio-small-fruit-school
Proper training of grapevines is essential to maintain plant size, shape, and productivity. If left unattended, grapevines can become unruly, and fruiting will be poor due to overproduction of vegetation. Ohio State University Extension has a good resource on pruning grapevines at http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1428.html
Productive fruit trees with an abundance of high quality fruit don’t just happen. They result from good cultural practices, including pruning. However, fruit tree pruning is often neglected due to a lack of pruning skills and knowledge or just because of bad experiences from past attempts.
The goals of fruit tree pruning are many, including 1) to obtain maximum light exposure for both leaves and fruit; 2) provide uniform distribution of fruiting wood along the scaffold branches; 3) control the size and vigor of the tree; 4) reduce limb breakage due to excessively heavy fruit loads; and 5) produce high quality fruit of good size. The major requirement of backyard gardeners is to have a tree small enough to spray and harvest easily. Pruning, combined with the use of dwarf fruit trees will help accomplish this goal.
The biggest mistake one can make with large fruit trees (not dwarf or semi-dwarf) is to try and make a big tree into a small tree. If one cuts out a couple hundred pounds of wood from a fruit tree it will simply replace the wood during the upcoming growing season and spend energy doing this that could have been spent on producing fruit. Remember, big trees want to stay big.
A fact sheet on pruning mature fruit trees can be found at http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1150.html When pruning, use tools made for the purpose and keep them sharp and clean. To disinfect pruning tools, use either a 70% denatured alcohol solution, or household bleach at one part bleach to nine parts water. Either use a sponge or dip the equipment into these solutions between cuts.
Ohio State University has a wealth of fruit tree in formation on Ohioline at http://ohioline.osu.edu/ and by clicking on the Yard & Garden button and then clicking on the Fruit button. Everything you would want to know about fruit diseases and insects can be found there.