Sunday, March 5, 2017

Where Does the Fruit Grow? Identifying Apple and Pear Buds


Flowers of Apples and Pears

Early spring means pruning season. Pruning is probably one of the least understood aspects of maintaining a home orchard and the most difficult to learn. I decided to start with apples and pears because they should be the first fruit trees you prune and they have similar flower and bud development.
Recognizing where the flowers and fruit develop on the different fruit trees is important. The location of buds and bud developments will determine how that tree is pruned.

There are two types of buds on fruit trees- terminal and lateral. Apples and and pears flower and fruit for the most part on terminal buds. A terminal bud is located on the tips of a shoot and is also called the apical bud. A lateral bud develops at the base of a leaf along the shoot.
Buds in apples and pears can develop on the ends of terminal shoots longer than 4 inches or on shorter shoots less than 4 inches which are called spurs. Spurs only grow a very small amount each year. They are slow to develop taking two years. Fruiting the second year. 

In the first year the bud is formed as either a lateral or terminal bud. If the bud is terminal, it may or may not flower . Lateral buds formed the first year may produce a flower, but the fruit that develops is usually small. Normally, the lateral bud thickens and grow only a small amount. It is on its way to developing as a spur. Those spurs then produce buds and fruit the second and third year.
Spur and terminal buds of both kinds can have both flower and vegetative parts with the bud. What that means is that the bud produces both flowers and leaves. Buds can produces any where from 5-8 flowers and a similar number of leaves.
Pruning will affect the amount and type of buds that form on fruit trees. The goal of pruning is to encourage the tree to produce fruiting wood. Trees can be over vigorous due to improper pruning or over fertilizing both of which will result in fewer flower bud developing and less fruit.

How to Identify Apple and Pear Fruit Buds

Being able to identify buds will enable you to prune to achieve an optimal harvest. It will also enable you to determine how that particular cultivar can be trained, espalier etc.
Fruit trees produce two types of buds: 

Fruit buds contain flowers that when pollinated become fruit.
Wood or growth buds develop into new shoots and leaves but no flowers. Growth buds finish developing after the developing fruit.

Being able to identify fruiting buds will ensure you do not prune off the fruiting wood and thus have no harvests.

Fruit buds

By November a plump, round bud will have formed which contains the flowers that will appear the following April and May. The bud scales on fruit buds are soft and fuzzy on apples, pears, peaches and nectarines. In summer, fruit buds are often surrounded by a cluster of leaves.

Wood or growth buds

Wood or growth buds which carry leaves but no flowers are slender, pointed buds found in a leaf axil. These buds are usually much smaller and more less noticeable than fruit buds.

This is a good picture of the king bud on an apple tree.  All the flowers have the potential to become fruit.  If undamaged the center king bloom is usually the fruit left on the tree after thinning because of its potential to develop the largest fruit.

Tip Bearers versus Spur Bearers

Apple and pear cultivars fall into three categories according to where the fruit bud is produced. They can be spur-bearers, tip-bearers, and partial tips bearers. The majority of pears are spur bearers. Apples can be tip or spur bearers.

    • Spur-bearers produce fruit buds on two-year-old wood, and as spurs (short, branched shoots) on the older wood. 

    • Tip-bearers produce very few spurs. Fruit buds are found at the tips of long shoots produced the previous year.
    • Many apple cultivars are partial tip-bearers, producing fruit on the tips of the previous year's shoots and also on some spurs. 

     So head out to your orchard and look at each apple and pear tree.  Identify the fruit buds and growth buds.  Identify the spur bearers and tip bearers.  If you are able to do this you are ready to prune. 

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