Tree pruning with The Orchard Project

When BPCG volunteer Dafydd Walters went to North London… learn about February tree fruit pruning with The Orchard Project.

Here’s Dafydd’s account….

It was an inauspicious start. A cold Saturday morning walking from King’s Cross along Pancras Road and then into Camley Street crossing the Regent’s Canal trying to find number 110. It was obvious that Google maps had got it wrong! St Pancras Coroner’s Court was clearly not the correct place. So onwards, I went searching for likely looking places. A wholesale food warehouse was the other part of the address (Ed. that’s Alara Wholefoods) but when found, it was completely locked up with not a soul in sight. Wandering around I noticed next door an “eco” area with trees but the gate was padlocked. I was a little early so I walked around trying to keep warm, back along the road and after ten minutes spotted a group of four people with secateurs in their holsters. This looked promising!  They were gathered on what looked like a narrow grass verge with some small trees along it. This was it. Soon the four swelled to about a dozen and after introductions orders were taken for hot drinks from a small booth used by taxi drivers – fantastic!

Dafydd, Kate and Rod pruning BPCG red currants on another chilly Winter day!

The group was initially intimidating, about six turned up in “Orchard Project” anoraks and obviously knew each other. Several were professional gardeners – RHS, Wisley, Capel Manor College. However, Lewis, the teacher in charge, quickly put everyone at their ease and after a short talk and some demonstrations on the young-ish trees, put us into small groups and let us loose on the apple and pear trees. He was excellent, giving just enough information (for me anyway) and lots of practical tips. He visited every group and was easily accessible for questions. It did not take long to discover that most of the group had no more confidence in what to cut or exactly where than I did. Most of us were too diffident in our pruning styles.  It took an elderly gentleman who was not a professional but had grown fruit trees for over 30 years  and who was a fount of knowledge to get us going. He always suggested the most radical cuts – “Oh, take that whole branch off at the base!”

The four hours passed really quickly as we moved from tree to tree, chatting and asking questions. Towards the end we were let loose on some younger trees which needed shaping.

The small folding pruning saws that were available were excellent, so much so that I have bought one. They are made by “Opinel”. I also learned about root stocks for apples, some common diseases and infestations and above all, that pruning is based on some simple rules and confidence comes, as always in life, from doing it.

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