The Pruning Challenge

We’ve been pruning our apple trees.

I like the challenge of deciding what to do with each tree. But not so much the challenge of standing on the top of a ladder.

What branches need to go? Which should stay for the long haul? And what branches should only stay for now?

Each tree grows with a different personality.

They have twisty branches or willowy branches. They grow with limbs that want to grow out forever and others that want to reach up forever. The ones that grow up forever are John’s job. 

Pruning the trees is a constant exercise in studying the details. Watching for rot and fungus while looking at angles that limbs grow out of the main truck. Checking to see how a branch responded to what was done to it last year to know what to try this year. And double checking to see if your ladder is stable. 

And then, at the same time, trying to hold a picture of the whole tree in your mind, not just today’s tree, but what today’s tree should look like in three years. This is better than holding a picture in your mind about how far off the ground you are, that’s ill advised.

It’s a challenge, and I like it. Well, other than that whole “heights” thing.

Except that today, a week in to the process and so close to done, my brain broke. I couldn’t figure out what to do with another wonky branch or just how many waterspouts to cut and how many to leave.  I left John plugging away at it and stumbled out of the orchard in search of a Diet Coke and dinner. Also shortly before this I may not have triple checked the stability of my ladder and while I’m sure I didn’t actually almost fall two whole feet to the ground and die – it felt completely possible at the time. 

Pruning is a challenge.

I always like a challenge, I’ll be back out there again tomorrow. Unless the last trees are really tall and then it’s all John.

All John. 

Picture taken for The Dogwood Photography Photo Challenge: Macro

8 comments on “The Pruning Challenge

  1. jenanita01 says:

    Being up a shaky ladder aside, pruning trees is a nightmare. I always feel such a responsibility, deciding which branch should go. Many people don’t understand the need to prune, thinking it cruel and unnecessary, but if you do it right, you gain so much. (and they look better afterwards too!)

    • Jessie says:

      Our philosophy is that no matter what happens while pruning a tree when we are done we stand back look and say. “Nice! That was a great pruning job, this tree is going to be awesome now!” and move on. 🙂 Cause by then it’s too late anyway!

  2. …and if your pruning saw/shears is on an extendable handle, the challenge of “What’s the ^%$#* cord tangled on?!”

    • Jessie says:

      Yes we do have one of those. I’m not very good friends with it.

      Because you are exactly right that stupid cord gets tangled and while you are swearing trying to untangle it your neck becomes permanently stuck staring straight at the sky and weird tiny muscles in your shoulders cramp from holding it up above you for so long and then when you finally get it too cut it leaves too long of a stub or a jagged edge and you have to go up and fix it anyway.

      I take my chances with the ladder more often than I use that!

  3. Widdershins says:

    Thankfully most of our gardening is at ground, or waist, level. I do admire your courage. 😀

  4. I find pruning an agonizing process. Once you cut something off, that’s it. And so often, the best looking parts of a shrub are the ones you cut off. (Sure, new stuff grows afterward, but it’s still agonizing). Totally agree about those pole pruners with the string. They’re pretty much useless. I tried using one while balanced on a ladder once. Just once. That was enough. Then there’s the whole sawdust in your eyes thing, plus sun glare making it hard to see what you’re doing. I admire you for finding it a positive challenge.

  5. Sidney F says:

    Greeat post thank you

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