Updated Jan 2021 – Added the video below to showcase a detailed explanation and tutorial.
When you receive trees for a new plantation, they should be uniform in growth, have healthy foliage, and be somewhere between 15-30 cm in height. They should also be in the root trainer tree tube they have been grown in throughout their time in the nursery. If they are either French or English oak, they’ll have a dominant central leader with perhaps a few short laterals. If they are hazelnuts they’ll be a similar height, but multi-stemmed, as this is their natural growth habit.
If your trees are well grown, as described above, they generally won’t need pruning in the first year. Early in the second spring, you can start some very light pruning, on an as needs basis as follows.
French Oak (Quercus ilex)
- Remove the tree guard to assess and access the lower part of the stem.
- Remove any side shoots growing from the lower third of the stem (singular leaves on the stem can be left untouched).
- Remove any strong side shoots growing in the top two-thirds of the young tree, as these will compete with the central leader (main stem).
- If there are any young branches growing very close together (crossing and touching), remove one and leave the other. This will help avoid wounds from rubbing in windy conditions.
Hazelnuts are different, in that we grow them with 3 – 5 stems rather than one central leader. Hazels have a naturally bushy growth habit, so it follows that we prune in keeping with their basic framework. It’s far easier to work ‘with’ nature than against it. There’s also a technical ‘regeneration’ reason for doing this, which I’ll explain in another post.
- Remove any side shoots growing from the bottom third of the multiple stems.
- Select the strongest 3-5 stems to retain and remove the rest cleanly at the base.
- Select stems to keep that are growing away from each other, so you end up with an open, vase-like shape.
- On the remaining stems, remove any strong side shoots growing inwards to the centre.
Pruning principles (general)
Use these principles to guide you when making decisions on pruning.
- Young truffle inoculated trees need to maintain an abundance of foliage and should never be over pruned.
- Healthy foliage provides photosynthetic goods, critical to the development of the fungus.
- If you are unsure, it’s always better to prune less than more, until you get the right advice.
- As a rule of thumb, never take more than 20% of the foliage of a tree in a single pruning.
- When removing a side shoot, make a clean cut back to within 2mm of the branch or stem.
- Use sharp clean secateurs; It’s a good habit to sterilize them before each use.
Pruning naturally becomes a bigger job over time, but that’s pretty much it for the first time around.
The video below gives you a practical demonstration.