Soon time to prune apple trees

Jerry Vitalis

Chisago County
Master Gardener

As I write this article, we are having the coldest weather in four years.  However, spring is sure to come, so it’s time to start thinking about pruning fruit trees.

Many problems can be prevented in apple and other trees if proper pruning is done every year.

Late winter is the best time for this task.

For the past several years we have invited Jim Birkholz to begin our spring classes by speaking about pruning fruit trees.  Jim also does a show-and-tell, demonstrating how trees are pruned.  He encourages you to bring pictures of your fruit tree problems to the class.

Jim and his wife, Judy, own and operate the Pleasant Valley Orchard south of Shafer.  He is a neighbor and friend who knows the ins and outs of apples and is willing to share his knowledge so you can be successful, too.  I have attended every one of his classes over the years, and I learned something new about apples each time.

At one of Jim’s sessions someone asked why two apples of the same variety can taste different.  Thaddeus Camant covered this topic in the January 2011 University of Minnesota Extension Yard and Garden News.

Wine consumers have known for centuries, he wrote, that wines taste different depending on where the grapes are grown.  Apple consumers should also start becoming particular about their fruit.

The Honeycrisp apple, developed in Minnesota, is popular because it stays crisp, has a high sugar content, and is moderately acidic.  Honeycrisp has a little more acid than Delicious or Fuji, but less than Granny Smith.  The sugar/acid balance of the Honeycrisp is critical, because a Honeycrisp with no acid tastes like a bland Red Delicious.

A host of factors influence flavor, including soil, daytime and nighttime temperatures, humidity and sunlight intensity.  I don’t know if the unusually dry summer had anything to do with it, but my apple crop has never been as sweet as in 2012, no matter what the variety.

Join us for Jim’s class on pruning fruit trees at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 12 and his class on controlling pests and diseases of fruit trees at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26. The cost for each class is $5 per person. Classes are held at the Chisago County Senior Center, 38790 6th Ave. in North Branch.

Those of you on our mailing list should be receiving information about our classes, our upcoming Bonanza, our base root order form and other opportunities.

Call Sue at 651-277-0151 to register or to get on the mailing list.