Fall Planting and Pruning.

August is the time of year we see combines on the Camas Prairie, dust  flying and trucks available to collect the tiny grain and haul it to the grain elevators for sale.  

Farmers work hard into the last wisps of dusk, enduring the heat, dust and dry weather to harvest their wheat crops and hope for smooth sailing when it comes to the equipment and mechanics of these huge machines to hang in for the big job.

The old timers say when you see the combines start their harvest, thats when the huckleberries are on.   Hordes of families head for the mountains to camp or pack a picnic, with focus on the task of picking the tiny little rich tasting berries for Labor Day pies, desserts, ice cream.

If your “SPOT” produces and if you spend the time to sock away some of the little blue nuggets of sweet richness – there might just be some to horde in the freezer for the special moments when a few of these precious berries are sprinkled on morning cereals or mixed into the pancake breakfasts.  Blackberries are also ripening on the thick thorny vines that are typically located in roadsides, along rivers and growing along banks where stepping into the thick briars must be safely executed.   Long sleeves and closed toed shoes are recommended for blackberry picking.

Despite the bounty of late summer harvest with the berries, the apple trees, plums and other fruits abundant in their ripened stage, we grasp and claw at the last vestiges of summertime, as families prepare for back to school and make mental notes about the coming season for FALL PLANTING, PRUNING, COMPOSTING and preparations for winter.


The Old Farmers Almanac tells us that “fall-planted bulbs produce the first blooms of next year’s season. The bulbs spend the winter making roots and come up early in the spring.  So if you think that autumn’s the time to stop gardening, think again! It’s bulb-planting time!”     The wisdom and advice offered by Farmers Almanac has been a trusted source of information on planting and farming for many families over many decades.  While you’ll start seeing bulbs sold by everybody, the Almanac offers good advice when it recommends to buy from a reputable nursery or garden center for purchase of quality bulbs which will produce quality blooms in the months when you eagerly await the beautiful results of your efforts.   “Second rate bulbs produce second rate blooms or no blooms at all!”, they say.

To your right, you’ll find a bulb planting chart that might help you in your selections and landscaping plans when thinking about bulbs.  Click on the chart for a full size view.


One of the keys to successful fall planting is the temperature of the ground where your trees and shrubs are planted.   If you wait too long and the ground temperature falls below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, your trees and shrubs may not sustain root freeze.   So its important to try to plant when the temperatures have cooled, but the ground is still above freezing.  The trunk and branches of the plant are dormant which sends most of the energy to the roots so that they begin to take hold, and become established.   As the fall progresses through to winter, the growth slows, but the roots continue to be nourished by the moisture of rain and then snow, as well as the humus of decaying earth.   Its a good idea to add mulch to the soil where your plants are trees are being introduced, which will provide the extra bit of soft earth and decaying matter to feed the root system.   Straw or additional mulch around the base of the planting will insulate the roots from rough weather that might exist above ground.


Fruit Tree Pruning and Planting

Homeowners with small orchard production often neglect the annual training and pruning of fruit trees. Without training and pruning, however, fruit trees will not develop proper shape and form. Properly trained and pruned trees will yield high quality fruit much earlier in their lives and live significantly longer.

A primary objective of training and pruning is to develop a strong tree framework that will support fruit production. Improperly trained fruit trees generally have very upright branch angles, which result in serious limb breakage under a heavy fruit load. This significantly reduces the productivity of the tree and may greatly reduce tree life. Another goal of annual training and pruning is to remove dead, diseased, or broken limbs.
Proper tree training also opens up the tree canopy to maximize light penetration. For most deciduous tree fruit, flower buds for the current season’s crop are formed the previous summer. Light penetration is essential for flower bud development and optimal fruit set, flavor, and quality. Although a mature tree may be growing in full sun, a very dense canopy may not allow enough l

ight to reach 12 to 18 inches inside the canopy. Opening the tree canopy also permits adequate air movement through the tree, which promotes rapid drying to minimize disease infection and allows thorough pesticide penetration. Additionally, a wellshaped fruit tree is aesthetically pleasing, whether in a landscaped yard, garden, or commercial orchard.

Historically, fruit tree form and structure have been maintained by pruning. Tree training, however, is a much more efficient and desirable way to develop form and structure.

Pruning is the removal of a portion of a tree to correct or maintain tree structure. Training is a relatively new practice in which tree growth is directed into a desired shape and form. Training young fruit trees is essential for proper tree development. It is better to direct tree growth with training than to correct it with pruning.

Pruning is most often done during the winter, commonly referred to as dormant pruning. Training includes summer training and summer pruning as well as dormant pruning. The goal of tree training is to direct tree growth and minimize cutting.


Fruit Tree Planting

Fruit trees often are obtained as bare-root whips or as packaged and container-grown sizes. Bare-root whips may have few or no branches. Following planting, remove the top of the whip about 1/4 inch above a bud that is located approximately 30 to 36 inches above the soil line..   This will cause branching.

If branches are already present, as is usually the case with container-grown trees, remove only dead, broken or interfering branches until the tree is established. Avoid the temptation to limb the tree up right after planting. It is important to leave as much healthy growth as possible the first year to provide foliage for food production. This is needed for root establishment.

In the second year, select the branches that are well-spaced up and down the plant and leave these. Remove all other branches, particularly when they interfere with each other, arise from the trunk close to the same point, or have acute, upright crotches. These last tend to develop “included bark” as the tree grows. Such branches will be weak and fail under heavy fruit loads or snows.

In subsequent years, select additional strong branches and remove weak and interfering ones. It also may be necessary to remove some lower branches that were left earlier.

When removing any branch, large or small, avoid stubs and cuts close to the trunk. As a guideline, look for a bark ridge located in the branch crotch (see Figure 2 circle insert). You also will find that most branches have a slight swelling or “collar” at their base. Avoid cutting into this because that will destroy a natural protection or boundary in the tree.

Quick Facts…

  • Proper pruning is an important step in ensuring healthy, strong fruit trees.
  • Train fruit trees while young to avoid problems later.
  • Improperly pruned or neglected trees are more subject to disease organisms and breakage from fruit loads and storms.
  • Prune in late winter or early spring just before bud break.
  • Wound dressings are of no benefit in pruning and can even harbor disease organisms.
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