Category Archives: Tree Pruning

Learn to Prune with the VFTP!

HallmanThe VFTP is pleased to announce our first workshop of the year, a late-winter pruning workshop with seasoned arborist Richard Hallman. January – early April is an ideal time for dormant pruning work, so join us Sunday, March 6th, 2 – 4pm and learn how to prune and care for your own apple and pear trees during this window of opportunity! Held in the garden of one of our very own tree owners (complete with apple, pear, plum and cherry trees!), you will learn:

– To read the condition of your trees
– To estimate the amount of fruit produced in past years and potential yield this year
– How apple and pear trees grow and how they react to pruning and training
– A step by step process that you can follow when pruning your own trees, a great way to overcome the fear of pruning.
– Techniques and tricks you can use to improve the amount and quality of the fruit they produce in years to come

Your trees will certainly applereciate your new pruning knowledge, as you help pearfect their production this year, so be sure to register today for the March 6th Pruning Workshop!


Apples and Pears Biennial Bearing and Thinning

Summer is here, and you should now be able to easily see the fruit on your trees. Apples and pears produce most of their fruit on small, fruiting branches called spurs. Spurs are small, stunted, funny-looking branches. Make sure you don’t cut these cute little branches off when you are pruning, or you won’t get much fruit for a couple of years.

During the six weeks or so after blossom time, this year’s fruit start to grow on some spurs. At the same time, flowers for next year’s crop are being initiated in the buds of other spurs. Individual spurs cannot do both at the same time. This results in a phenomenon called biennial bearing, or producing fruit every other year. If you are growing apple or pear trees in your garden, you are likely familiar with biennial bearing. Most apple and pear trees will have a year with a big crop, followed the next year by a small crop. In some cases, biennial bearing is so severe that a tree will have a huge crop one year and no fruit the following year. This cycle can be initiated by many things, such as bad weather at blossom time or winter damage. Commercial orchardists spend a lot of effort trying to eliminate this tendency so that they can produce a dependable volume of fruit for the market each year. A year without fruit means a year without income for these businesses.

If there is fruit on most of the spurs of your trees, it would be a good idea to remove all of the fruit from half the spurs. This is called thinning, and will allow the trees to spend their energy developing flower buds on those spurs for next year. Another reason to thin your apples and pears is to increase the size of the fruit you leave on the tree. To accomplish this, fruit is usually thinned to one or two on each spur. Don’t be surprised if some of your fruit start to drop off your trees on their own in the next couple of weeks; this is a natural shedding of weak fruit that usually occurs in June.

In the picture there are two spurs, one growing this year’s apples and the other Apples on Spurwith three visible scars where last year’s apples were attached.

Richard Hallman
Horticultural Advisor


Book Review: Independence Days

In the Bookshed: Independence Days | Sharon Astyk
Guest Post by Megan Adam

I should warn you upfront that no sooner was I done this book, that I started clearing a corner of my basement for long-term food storage. Not necessarily because Sharon Astyk makes a compelling case for the end of civilization as we know it, but because the notion of security – and in particular food security is so compelling to me. For more than a decade I have put some food by each year, canning mostly, occasionally drying foods, but after reading this book I’m committed to doing a lot more. Three months supply of food for each person in the house? I’m not sure about that yet, but I’ve got that corner cleaned out and I’m going to fill it.

Independence Days is an excellent introduction to the whys and hows of food storage covering everything from how to get your family to eat storage food (not a problem in our house because we already eat lots of beans and lentils and rice) to recipes to the principles behind lactofermentation. What I particularly appreciated were the acknowledgements throughout that moving oneself into a more secure food paradigm is a task often complicated by the hard realities of personal economics, and the people with whom we share space.

Astyk’s style is eminently readable – conversational and breezy throughout as she chides her own past mistakes in food preserving (really – she says – don’t let your fermenting kimchi explode in your kitchen), and imparts real-world wisdom in each step of the various processes – root cellaring, canning, drying, lactofermentation and season-extension in the garden. Additionally, an extensive home medical kit is also covered as part of your home preparations — just in case.

While not an alarmist, Astyk does ask us to consider the possibility that we encounter a disaster so great that we are not able to access grocery stores or municipal water supplies. That might be a quarantine, it might be an earthquake, or it might just be a job loss that leaves one with little means to pay the rent and eat. In any of these situations she suggests that putting food by while we have it available is not only a good strategy, but a responsibility to ourselves and our families.

I can’t say I disagree, and while greater food security for my family is something I’ve always meant to get around to, this book is written in such a way as to give you confidence in getting started without being overwhelmed. If food security at home is something you think about, this is a good first-reference and an enjoyable read.

– Megan Adam blogs at