Some people may think that once all of the apples are picked and temperatures start to drop, us farmers stay holed up indoors keeping cozy by the wood stove with a good book in hand and hot drink close by. As much as we wish that were true, (well, sometimes it is!) there is lots to keep us busy in the winter months.
One of the ongoing tasks apple growers face in the winter is pruning. When temperatures are consistently below freezing, apple trees go dormant until the spring. Each of our 13,000 trees must be carefully inspected and trimmed back to help them produce a healthy crop. Apple trees tend to produce the best apples on wood that is 2-3 years old, so pruning out old and tired branches encourages the growth of new limbs where the fruit will develop size and colour the best. When the tree wakes up, it starts to send energy to the remaining branches where the fruit buds are waiting to swell and blossom. Ideally, all of our pruning is done before the sap starts to flow in spring which requires discipline and good winter gear to complete on time.
On days that are too cold or snowy to prune, we keep busy in the office; ordering supplies, catching up on paperwork, planning events, and mapping out the growing season. We also spend time attending conferences and meeting with other growers to share knowledge and explore new ways to improve our operation. Therein lies one of our favourite parts of horticulture: even after 40 years of growing apples, there is always something new to learn.
Are you interested in learning how to prune that old apple tree in your backyard? Have you planted some trees but aren't sure how to prune to keep them healthy? Let us know if you are interested in attending a pruning workshop this March! Better yet, sign up for our newsletter so you'll never miss an update on upcoming workshops and events.