Tending the Apple Trees

– Posted in: Garden chores

On Friday the apple tree I bought from St. Lawrence Nurseries arrived. It came while I was out, and I didn’t get back until late in the day, exhausted from working. The tree was supposed to be planted as soon as possible, and since it wasn’t a cheap plant, I didn’t feel at leisure to put off the planting. Being a dutiful fellow, I ate supper and went out and planted the tree, even though I had a headache. Tired and working with a headache is not the best circumstance in which to plant the “present to myself.” I hope to mulch it on a pleasanter day and so redeem the situation.

Planting the apple sapling was only the beginning of my labors. There is more work that needs doing outside than I’ve time to do. Spring races ahead, and I race to keep up, dashing from one crisis to another. The sapling is in the ground, but the three grown apple trees desperately need pruning.

I like caring for the apple trees and I prefer to have the time to savor the work and do it at a leisurely pace. Such was not the case this year, and it was my own fault. (I hate admitting that). I could have pruned the apple trees sometime in March–when it was the best time to prune them. Instead, I was involved in other things and continued to assume there was plenty of time in which to prune the trees. When I stopped and took stock of the situation the days were already far gone. The trees were budding out. The further along the apple trees are in budding the more stress pruning puts on them. The urgency of the pruning became now, now, now.

I try to avoid getting too wound up over the apple trees. After all, they are just apple trees. But they are my pets, the job is time sensitive, and I don’t like doing things the wrong way. Besides, I like pruning the apple trees, and it is hard to enjoy something when I’m rushed.

Most people would consider apple tree pruning a terror, a bore, or else just plain annoying. There is the constant danger of falling out of the tree. It is hard on the knees, hard on the back, and hard on a lot of other parts of the body as well. It is just plain not very comfortable stretching way out to reach those last twigs. If this all wasn’t enough, it takes hours to prune one tree.

For a small minority, pruning is a very enjoyable task. It is a family joke that I’m going to be a writer with an orchard. I guess the two together strikes them as bohemian, artistic, and perhaps cute. Without admitting to anything, I’ll agree that tending apple trees appeals to my artistic side. Pruning an apple tree is like sculpting, and I take immense satisfaction from setting the tangled and wildly grown limbs to rights. Watching the trees flower and produce fruit under the correction of my hand is a fulfilling hobby. It is time I spend outside in peace and quiet, working in the sun and fresh air. Pruning is an uncomplicated chore, and one I can do while enjoying the outdoors. On a fine day when the sky is blue and a gentle breeze is blowing, I sit in the upper branches of the apple tree and think that while I just might be crazy, it sure is fun.

This year much less time was spent enjoying the job and more time spent racing to get the task completed. I was already running late, and with the weather forecasters predicting rain for the next several days I didn’t dare leave the two earlier budding trees unpruned any longer. After pruning on both Saturday and Sunday I had one half of the two early trees left. Rain was coming today, so I made the decision to put off my daily writing time and instead go out and finish pruning the tree. The trees are pruned now, and I feel better for it. There is still the later budding tree in need of my tending, but it will have to wait a few more days. Maybe with the next stretch of good weather I’ll be able to tackle the last tree at a more relaxed pace.

About the Author

At age fifteen, Rundy decided he wanted to write for his living. He is currently working on a novel, although it is not the novel he started at fifteen. When not working on the novel, he might be riding his bike, feeding his chickens, helping his neighbors, messing around with web design and computers in general, or writing on his blog, which discusses other topics in addition to gardening. USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 AHS Heat Zone: 3 Location: rural; Southern Tier of NY Geographic type: foothills of Appalachian Mountains Soil Type: acid clay Experience level: advanced beginner Particular interests: fruits, vegetables, major landscaping, chickens and other poultry

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

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