Tuesday, March 5, 2024


Is your fruit tree stuck in the Bart-Lisa Simpson cycle of sibling rivalry?!?

It's early March, prime time to prune fruit trees. Here are some insights and tips to consider regarding water sprouts.

Water-sprouts (those fast growing, vertical shoots) are often a "panic" response to severe pruning. The tree is desperately trying to replace all the photosynthetic capacity it lost all at once. Vertical water sprouts do not produce fruit. Severe pruning is a two-fold waste of energy for the tree: firstly in the loss of all those leaves, and then again as it devotes resources towards replacing all of that growth (only to be cut off again). 

Another analogy for this water sprout cycle is the Greek monster Hydra, with a head of snakes. If one snake was cut off, two more would regrow in its place.   

There is a way to exit this unecessary cycle and return the tree to a more beautiful and natural form, with renewed reproductive growth, and without the Hydra effect. Renovating old, malpruned and neglected trees is something I do often, and it usually takes 2-3 seasons/prunings to bring the tree into a gentler "maintenance" state. An added bonus is that after the first couple seasons, pruning inputs (time and energy) become much less.

Ideally fruit trees are pruned every year, so that issues can be detected early and one is never having to make large, stressful cuts.

Finally, remember to water your fruit trees, even the mature ones that seem well established and self sufficient, during times of drought!

If you'd like to learn more about pruning, I highly suggest Chris Holt's tree pruning workshops through Selkirk College, which include many of the above insights and much more, as well as the book Cass Turnbull's Guide to Pruning.

You can learn more about Garden Understories' pruning services here

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