Saturday, 29 August 2015

Today I brutted my laterals and pruned my plums

I read on Facebook the other day that someone was harvesting their cobnuts. Is it time already? I checked my spreadsheet of tasks to be performed through the year (yes, I know, it's sad) and there were the words "brut laterals on cobnuts". I remember typing this, but never actually got round to finding out what it meant. I had decided to leave it till I needed to find out... which brings me to today.
Basically the laterals are the sideshoots. Brutting means snapping them and letting them hang. I'm not sure this is a technique used on any other crops, but it has its own word. By snapping the 'twigs' half way along this year's growth, it stops the tree producing more growth and instead makes it produce more flowers, more nuts next year.
It also has other benefits such as opening up the tree and increasing airflow. It will be interesting to see the results next year.
One of my freshly brutted cobnuts
As I performed the brutting operation, I was surprised to see next year's catkins already beginning to form, even before this year's fruit is fully ready.

Tiny catkins already forming along the laterals
 My other job today was to attempt to prune my plum trees and cherry trees. These fruits must be pruned before the sap is withdrawing, otherwise they are very vulnerable to disease. Silverleaf disease is bad news for plums. The job had been delayed a week while I waited for an order of wound compound to arrive. I've not used this before, but it is essential when pruning stone fruits to seal up the cut ends of wood. I don't know why, but I was expecting a powder, so when I opened up the small tub I was surprised to find a gloopy substance which I swear is just a mix of mud and rubber. Anyway, it seemed to do a good job of sealing the wounds and now that I have it I can take more care when pruning other trees too.
The pruning is mostly just taking out damaged or crossing branches, opening up the middle of the tree and balancing the tree, I took the opportunity to remove and shorten some of the drooping branches which would struggle under the weight of a good harvest. The aforesaid good harvest seems totally unpredicatable when it comes to plums. Trees which did brilliantly last year had not a plum on them, whereas others such as my Imperial Gage were literally dripping with fruits.
At least I have a few varieties, so there will always be one or two trees which produce well.

These plums are still too firm to pick.
I'm keeping a close eye on them though so I can get them before the wasps move in.

One tree which produced fairly well last year was one of my Victoria plums. However, half of its branches seemed devoid of fruit and were adorned with treacherous thorns. I presumed that a few shoots had risen up from below the graft, but the source was hidden by the tree protector.
However this year the spiny impostor was rampant. It has formed a lovely looking tree, but the Victoria Plum part of it is right in the middle, amply protected by the spiny forest.
So today I removed the tree protector, intending to lop off all thorny interlopers. But what I found was worse than I thought.
The plum tree proper is the small stem on the left!
The main trunk of the tree led up to thick, spiky branches. The Victoria Plum was coming a poor second. I decided to leave it be. Maybe we'll get a surprise crop in the future, but what? Sloes? Bullaces? Mirabelles? Or just a nice looking tree.

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