In training and pruning fruit trees and vines, particular attention is required. To supply a tree with a sufficiency of vegetable juices, there must necessarily be living bark and wood in an uninterrupted succession from the root to the extremities of the branches; pruning, therefore, is useful to remedy any defect, as well as to take off superfluous wood, and prevent unnecessary waste of the sap. Pruning may be performed at different seasons of the year, according to the kinds of fruit, which will be shown under each head, as we proceed.
In the spring or summer pruning, be careful not to destroy the germs of future fruits, but merely remove all unserviceable sprigs. In the winter season, make your selection from the wood shoots of the preceding year; keep those which appear the most healthy, and cut away those which seem redundant. Beginners had better prefer the spring, as the buds will then be a guide for them to go by; but this business must not be delayed too late in the season, as some kinds of trees and vines are apt to bleed from being pruned untimely. When the sap rises in Grape Vines, etc, before the wound is healed, bleeding ensues, and it is not easily stopped. When this happens, sear the place, and cover it with melted wax, or with warm pitch spread upon a piece of bladder; or peel off the outside bark to some distance from the place, and then press into the pores of the wood, a composition of pounded chalk and tar, mixed to the consistence of putty. Vines will bleed in autumn as well as in spring, though not so copiously. The best preventive is timely or early pruning in the spring, and not pruning until the wood is thoroughly ripe in autumn.
With respect to the manner in which vines, and some particular kinds of trees, should be trained, opinions are at variance. Some advise training the shoots in a straight and direct manner, others in a horizontal manner, and others again in a serpentine form, etc. If vines be trained on low walls or trellises, the horizontal or zigzag manner of training may be adopted. Horizontal training is that in which from a main stem, lateral branches are led out horizontally on each side.
It has been remarked, that in order to be a good trainer of vines, a man must have some forethought, and be capable of making his selection, as the plants shoot. He must predetermine how he shall prune, and where he shall cut at the end of the season; and so, as it were, fashion the plants to his mind. He has this more effectually in his power, with respect to the vine, than any other fruit tree, on account of its rapid growth and docility.
In pruning vines, cut generally two inches above the bud. Some cut nearer, even as near as half an inch, which is apt to weaken the shoot of next season, and sometimes to prevent its vegetating at all, the buds being very susceptible of injury, on account of the soft and spongy nature of the wood. In cutting out old wood, be careful to cut in a sloping direction, and to smooth the edges of the wood, in order to prevent its being injured by moisture. The pruning being finished, let the loose, shreddy, outward rind on the old wood be carefully peeled off, observing not to injure the sound bark, and clear the trellis of branches, leaves, tendrils, etc Let the shoots and branches afterward be regularly laid in, at the distance above specified, particularly the young shoots that are expected to bear next season. As to others, it is not so material how near the young shoots be placed to the old, even though they sometimes cross them. Choose strands of fresh matting, or pack thread, to tie with; and observe to leave sufficient room for the swelling of the shoots and branches next season.
By attending to the proper training of fruit trees, every advantage is promoted, and by a judicious management in other respects, wood may not only be obtained, but preserved in every part of the tree, so that it will bear down to the very bole, which will evidently be greatly to the credit of the gardener, the benefit of the proprietor, and equally conducive to the beauty and welfare of the tree. While trees are young, it is necessary to lay a good foundation for a supply of bearing wood in future years, for when this is neglected, and they become naked, it is sometime before a supply can be recovered. In shortening a branch, always take care to cut in a direction a little sloping, and the middle of all standard trees should be kept as open as possible. It is requisite to have a very sharp knife, that the cut may not be ragged, but clean, and in the operation be careful that the knife does not slip, so that another branch be cut or damaged. The general pruning of fruit trees is indifferently performed by many persons at any time from autumn to spring, and it may be so done without any great injury to them, provided mild weather be chosen for the purpose, and the Wood be well ripened. Although it may be advantageous to prune trees early in the winter, when the wood is well ripened, yet, when the wood is green and the buds have not arrived at a mature state, it is requisite in such cases to defer pruning until spring, taking care, however, that it is performed before the moving of the sap. The necessity of this arises from the circumstance, that as the wood is not ripened in autumn, the sap is then in an active state, and will continue so until the frost, etc, cause it to become stagnant; and if the shoots were shortened while the sap was in motion, the buds would be considerably injured, and the tree weakened; such unripe shoots are also more liable to suffer by the severity of winter, and when the pruning is deferred until spring, all such parts as may have been affected by the weather, can be removed to the extent to which the damage has been sustained. As the pruning of such unripe wood in the autumn would be injurious, so it frequently is when it is done during winter, and the more so according to its severity; because, whenever a cut is made on such green wood, the frost generally affects it, as the sap is not so dense, nor the wood so firm, as to be able to resist its intense-ness.
Whatever method is adopted in training trees, care should be taken to keep the two sides as nearly equal as possible; this may easily be done, whether they are trained in the fan or horizontal method. For espalier trees, the horizontal method has many advantages over any other; the small compass within which the trees are obliged to be kept, requires such a direction for the branches, in order to make them fruitful; and were very high trellises formed, so as to admit of the trees being trained in the fan method, such would be very objectionable, by reason of the shade they would cause, and the trees would also be deprived of the benefit of a warmer temperature, which those less elevated receive.
As some young gardeners may not know what is meant by espaliers, it may be necessary to explain, that espaliers are hedges of fruit trees, which are trained up regularly to a frame or trellis of wood-work; they produce large fruit plentifully, without taking up much room, and may be planted in the Kitchen Garden without much inconvenience to its other products. For espalier fruit trees in the open ground, a trellis is absolutely necessary, and may either be formed of common stakes or poles, or of regular joinery work, according to taste or fancy.
The implements employed in pruning, and the manner of using them, are matters of moment. If the operation is commenced when the tree is young, and judiciously followed up, a good knife, a small saw, a mallet, and a chisel fixed on a six-foot handle, to trim the tops and extremities of the branches, are all the tools that are required. A large saw will be occasionally wanted; but an axe or hatchet should never be employed, as they fracture the wood, bruise and tear the bark, and disfigure the tree.