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Pruning Workshop (and Springtime Reunions!) 

at the Highland Farm

By Anna Tracht, Senior Fellow

On March 11th, we were lucky enough to have AMI alum Sarah Collins-Simmons lead us in a pruning workshop. Pruning is the process of removing parts of a tree or bush to encourage more productive growth. This is an especially useful practice for fruit trees and berry bushes. Sarah started off by giving us a basic lesson on pruning trees and shrubs. Here are a few of the main takeaways from her lesson:

  • Trees should be pruned when they are in their dormant stage (November/December through about March)
  • You can remove up to 1/3 of the living mass of the tree or bush, but no more.
  • Cut out anything that is dead, diseased, or damaged first.
  • Don’t prune anything the same year that you plant it.
  • You generally want to make your cuts right above a bud or branching point.
  • Different types of trees (apple, cherry, peach, etc.) require different shapes for optimal productivity and health, so not all trees are pruned in the same way.

After this lesson, we moved out into the AMI gardens and orchard to get some hands-on practice. First, we took our clippers to the blueberry bushes. 

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Then we walked through the orchard together; each Fellow took turns selecting a tree, and talking through which cuts they were making and why, while the rest of the group provided input and support.

It was so wonderful to be back on Allegheny Mountain, working with the other fellows, and especially having Nick and Anna M., who aren’t doing the Senior Fellowship, back with the crew. We shared a beautiful lunch (and a few maple donuts, in honor of Highland’s annual Maple Festival) in the garden, and took a couple hours in the afternoon to explore and reacquaint ourselves with the mountain.

We were lucky enough that it finally felt like spring, and some of us even jumped in the pond! It was a great way to spend a Friday, and I certainly feel more comfortable pruning trees and bushes now. Hopefully with the pointers above, you can too!

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