Saturday, January 28, 2012

Winter Sucker Removal

Photos courtesy of Troy Nuttal.

Winter is a great time to take care of those tree chores that don't get done in the summer. A perfect example of this is clearing out fruit tree suckers. Suckers are shoots that come out from the roots of the tree. The best time to take out suckers is as they appear in the summer. Just rip them off away from the tree at an angle and they will often come right out.

That is, they will if you get them while they are still young. If they have time to age and harden off they must be cut out. Once you start cutting, it gets harder and harder to just pull them off.

As a gardening tradesman, I often don't get to fix a problem until it is too late for the best solution. The suckers in these photos are being removed at the same time I did my annual fruit tree pruning in the winter. 

Suckering on this peach tree was worse than usual this year because the tree owner had his mowing crew clear away the weeds and place mulch around the tree base. In the process the roots were damaged and encouraged the growth of more suckers.

Removing the suckers now is just a matter of cutting them down at soil level and removing the cuttings. If the suckering continues heavily for a few years I will have to carefully dig down to where the root is and cut the sucker stump off there. Sometimes a stump gets so big and woody that I have to remove it to cut down on future work.

Some fruit trees will go many years without having suckers removed. In these cases the suckers get large and compete for sun and other resources with the fruit producing parts of the tree. The competition cuts down on quality and quantity of fruit produced, so I try to avoid it.

Good luck with your winter garden tasks! And remember, spring planting is just around the corner.

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