Directing trees is my term for working with trees to achieve certain goals. I am sure you have goals for your trees, and all the other plants in your garden and/or farm. These goals may be to produce fruit or nuts, to block an ugly sight, to create shade for your deck, or simply to have attractive flowers or foliage. In most situations you are unlikely to fully achieve these goals if you do nothing, or if you randomly prune your trees once a year. The best way is to direct your trees towards those goals.
Directing trees involves learning how they grow and how they are likely to react to anything you do to them, evaluating how well they are growing at the moment, learning where and when flower buds are formed (for flowering trees), learning how to encourage them to form more flower buds, and the list goes on.
What directing trees is NOT is a recipe or set of rules for pruning, or a list of things you must or must not do, like you will find in many pruning publications. Rules of this type were developed by well-meaning avid gardeners, horticulturists, and arborists. Even though these rules are intended to communicate how to do things right the first time, many gardeners tell me they are confusing and often difficult to apply. The trouble is that these rules are actually just styles or systems that someone felt were the “best way”, and over time they have become “the right way”.
There are two problems with this. The first is that the model trees used in pruning books, workshops, websites, and online videos rarely look like the trees in your backyard or farm, and they are usually not growing in soil like yours or in your climate. The second problem is that there is no one “right way”. There is a disconnect between how our trees grow and react in our yards and farms, and the rules or systems we are given as the “right way” to prune them.
Directing trees overcomes these problems by focusing on how trees grow, how to read how they are growing, and how they are likely to react to things we do to them. With this knowledge, you and I should be able to successfully direct our trees to achieve our goals for them.
Very few of the pruning books available provide the information you need to know about tree growth in order to direct them. These books are still very useful as they can provide important background information about your trees, such as when the flower buds are formed, what time of year they flower, their potential size and shape, and problem diseases and pests. You will need to consider all of this information when you prune. But don’t get caught up in the “only one way to prune” or the “only time of year to prune”; these are just rules that someone thought up.
Please let me know you thoughts about this point of view.