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Norwalk Daily Voice serves Norwalk & Rowayton

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Master Gardener Shapes Fruit Trees

Nick Mancini is a master gardener and my go-to guy for help with anything to do with my garden. He knows just about everything there is to know. Seriously. And he shares his knowledge at a series of classes at his Organic Gardening Workshop in Westport.

Right now, I need help pruning the baby fruit trees I planted last year, so I gave Nick a call. “It’s essential to start out right from the beginning when you plant the fruit tree,” Nick says, adding that you should trim the tree after you plant it to balance the top portion with its root system. Oops, missed that bit, but Nick says trees can be pretty forgiving so not to worry. He says that pruning a fruit tree will help it achieve the right shape, maintain its size and strength, and produce better quality fruit. Proper pruning will also make it easier to spray, control disease and harvest your fruit.

But before you can prune you have to make sure you've got the right equipment. “Buying the right pruning shear is important,” Nick says. “Handle as many as possible and choose the one that feels comfortable.” He explains that there are two basic cuts, one for thinning out and and one for heading back. Both remove unwanted growth. “Make all cuts on a slant, one quarter inch above a bud,” Nick says. “When cutting side branches, direct the growth to the outside part of the tree.” And most important of all is to hold your shears with the cutting blade next to the main branch otherwise you could create a stub that might not heal and open a portal for disease to attack your future orchard. New growth comes from the tiny buds that hug each stem or branch. Make sure the top bud you leave is pointing outward so the new branch grows away from the trunk.

If you want to join one of Nick's classes you should act fast. Topics include starting an organic garden, composting, container gardening, and organic insecticides, fungicides and fertilizers. The three-hour sessions are held on Saturday mornings and cost $25 each. Space is limited. Call Nick at (203) 227 4715.

Do you prune your fruit trees every year? Did you know that pruning fruit trees encourages them to fruit?

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