UBC Apple Festival October 19th and 20th

This is easily the largest Apple Festival in British Columbia, it is a must attend event for anyone in the area interested in tree fruits. For lots of information on this event click here. I will be at this event as a volunteer representing the Master Gardeners Association of BC – Vancouver Chapter and the BC Fruit Testers Association (bcfta.ca). There will be lots of apple varieties for tasting, fruit trees for sale and lots more. On each day there will two grafting demonstrations by members of the BCFTA and on each day I will be doing a short talk about pruning and training apple trees. I hope to see you there.

Click here to see a video about the festival.

Workshops and Courses



Over the next few months I will be instructing a few workshops and courses in the Vancouver BC area. The topics and contact information to register are below. I am always looking for more opportunities to teach about tree training, pruning and grafting, so if you know of such an opportunity, please contact me.

November 16, 2013.

Hands on Apple and Pear Pruning Workshop: 10:00 am – 12 noon. This is a fundraiser for the Vancouver Tree Fruit Project Society. This workshop will take place in the backyard of one of of the tree owners volunteers who allow this project to harvest their fruit for donation to various community groups in Vancouver. During the workshop two mature trees, a pear and an apple will be completely pruned. Participants will learn the critical information they need to know to prune and manage their trees, how to approach pruning large trees and they will also get hands on pruning experience. Click here to register.

November 23, 2013

Put More Fruit on Your Trees: 1:30 – 4:00 pm. A VanDusen Botanical Garden (vandusengarden.org) education course. Learn techniques to get the most from your apples, pears, plums, apricots and peaches. The topics will include: pruning and training for optimal fruit production, soil, watering and tree nutrition, improving blooms and pollination and caring for your growing fruit till harvest. Click here to register.

November 23, 2013

Prune to Improve Conifers: 10:00 am – 12:30 pm. Learn how to prune and direct the growth of your conifers to improve their look and function.  Understand how the plants naturally grow in order to prune for their long term health. It will include how to fix hedges with holes, repair bad pruning jobs, and how to correct specimen trees with unsightly gaps. If you have a problem plant, bring a picture of it for discussion.

January 25, 2014

Tree Grafting Fun: 10:00 am – 12:30 pm.  A VanDusen Botanical Garden (vandusengarden.org) education course. Learn how to add a new variety onto a tree in your yard, repair damage to tree trunks, or graft a pollinizer branch on a non-performing tree. Get hands-on practice of safe grafting techniques including chip, whip-and tongue, bridge, tread and bark grafting. This course will also explain the basic botany behind grafting, and will demo tools and machines used by the pros. Bring a sharp, thin bladed knife (a grafting knife if you have one). Click here to register.

February 8, 2014

Grow Tree Fruits in Containers: 10:00 am – 12:30 pm.  A VanDusen Botanical Garden (vandusengarden.org) education course. Learn how to grow apples, pears, plums, apricots, peaches, figs and other tree fruit in containers on your balcony of patio. Topics will include selecting trees (including rootstocks, varieties and size of tree), containers, soils, pruning and training including espalier training, trees with multiple fruit, and winter protection of your trees. Click here to register.

February 25, 2014

Tree Trickery: Train your trees by directing their growth and forcing them to grow in specific ways. Manipulating tree growth can be cone to create serpent, weeping or twisting ornamental trees, or to espalier fruit trees and more. Learn the techniques of tree training, and where to see interesting examples in Vancouver. Learn how to espalier a woody plant, forming it into a vertical trunk with horizontal branches in a single plane, creating attractive and productive fruit trees for small spaces.

March 22, 2014

Success with Fruit Trees: Grow delicious juicy fruit on your trees in your home garden. Richard will guide you through all aspects of fruit growing including site preparation, general maintenance, pollination and fruit set, pruning, and training. He will also cover how to renew and refresh older trees, and control of common pests and diseases.

Please note. Handouts and other information connected to all of these courses and workshops will be posted on this site. If you wish private one-on-one instruction in person or remotely over the internet, or want to organize a small group workshop using your trees (your trees will get pruned in the process) please contact me.

Fruit Tree Pruning Information

Today I gave a presentation about tree fruit pruning at the Vandusen Master Gardener’s Harvest Festival. This was not a stellar weather day in Vancouver, but many hardy gardeners did make it. It was a great experience.

It is very clear to me that I need to post much more information about tree fruit pruning on this site. Over the next couple of weeks I will be posting  new information on a range of tree fruit pruning topics including apical dominance and how to control it, how to manage apple and pear trees to increase the number of fruiting spurs, how to identify fruit and leaf buds and many more topics. My goal is to provide this information in a logical fashion, posts building on previous posts. Many of these topics are important background information that should help you evaluate the growth of your trees and your pruning options to achieve the goals you have for them. Please come back over the next few days and weeks to see the new posts and to provide me with feedback how useful (or not) this information is. 🙂

Harvest Time

cropped-Apples.jpgThis has been a great year for tree fruit growth and maturity on the West Coast of British Columbia. Harvest started in July for stone fruit and will be continuing into November for some late maturing pome fruits. While you are harvesting your fruit is a great time to evaluate the growth and production of your trees and to plan for their future. Did they produce as well as you had hoped? How did they do compared to previous years? If they did not measure up in any way now is the time to sort out why and to start thinking about solutions. Late winter when the trees are about to start the next year of growth and you are about to prune them is a poor time to start thinking about ways to improve their growth and production.

Some of the things you should be evaluating at this time of year include:

  • Where on your tree did the fruit grow? If it all grew in the top and outside edges of your trees, there may be too much shade in your trees reducing the health of interior branches. All parts of fruit trees need to receive direct sunlight for optimum health.
  • Is this years crop a lot smaller or larger than last years? If it is, your trees are biennial (many apples and pears are biennial). Fruit trees are easier to manage and they produce more fruit over time if biennial cropping is eliminated.
  • Are there a wide range of fruit sizes on your trees from very small to very large? This is usually caused by  pollination problems or too much shade on the inside of the tree.

All of these problems can be corrected through modified pruning and some other practices. Future posts will provide more information about harvest season evaluation and ways to improve future harvests.

Stewart Farm Heriatage Orchard Summer Pruning 2

This post is a closer look at the summer pruning cuts to reduce the vigor of the espalier tree at the Stewart Heritage Orchard. The first picture is the branches before cutting

and the second after cutting to 5 leaves. The response to this treatment needs to be monitored and next steps planned for the late dormant period.

Stewart Farm Heriatage Orchard Summer Pruning 1

Two days ago I was doing some summer pruning at the Stewart Heritage Orchard where I am a volunteer focused on orchard management. Summer pruning of apples to manage the growth of the trees and produce more fruiting spurs is usually done in mid  to late July, so this is an ideal time for this type of work.

The variety of this tree is Ahmead’s Kernal, an old variety identified in 1720 in England. All apple trees need to be pruned and trained in a way that will maintain a balance between the production of vegetative and fruiting branches.  Since espalier training restricts the trees to two dimensions and a small space, maintaining this balance is even more important. This particular espalier was heavily pruned last winter resulting in a large number of vegetative shoots. To rebalance this vertical shoots more than 10″ in length were cut to about 5 leaves not counting the basal whorl of leaves. This will reduce the vigor the heavy winter pruning created, a first step toward restoring the vegetative/fruiting balance.