Farm Focus: Our Win-Win Pruning Technique
As you've read in previous newsletters, we've been busy pruning our apricot trees for about the last month. Most pruning happens in the winter but we prune the apricots early when they still have foliage to avoid increasing the risk of brown rot, a fungal disease, which apricots are extremely susceptible to. Brown rot spreads through spores and water, so if we have fresh pruning cuts on the trees during the rainy season, the likelihood of infection is much greater. By the time the rainy season starts in earnest, the cuts have had time to heal.
Our crew is still busy pruning. The way we manage our prunings actually benefits our soil and is cost effective. Most of the pruning crew is up on ladders cutting out branches. Their cuttings fall beneath the trees. We have one or two guys who stay down on the ground. The ground guys rake up all the fallen branches into the mid- dle of the row.
When the pruning crew clears out, Humberto, our tractor driver comes through with our flail mower and mows down all the branches right in the middle of the rows, leaving a thick layer of wood mulch in place.
This layer of woody mulch benefits the soil and the trees in many ways. The mulch creates a layer of organic matter which decomposes to add nutrients and carbon to the soil. Keeping the soil covered, one of the primary tenets of sustainable farming helps with water retention during dry periods, as well as keeps the soil microbes insulated and happy.
Additionally, this method is less work for us because we do not need to transport the prunings to the compost pile to be chipped. We'd need to mow down the grasses in the rows regardless of pruning, so we save on both time and labor. We love win-wins!