25 ft high plum trees. To cut or not to cut that is the Q.

Hi folks. I have a sort of clump of plums at the end of my garden that have never been maintained in any way. And although there was an insanely enthusiastic crop of little plums had from them in 2010, I really feel I should reduce them if I can. I've been in this place for 10yrs+, and although the neighbours have never said anything, I feel that they might prefer a little more daylight. And I actually have to use a ladder to gather the fruit, despite the 4 to 5 inch thin trunks. It was pretty wobbly up there let me tell you!
Can't post the image, so here's the link to photobucket.
http://tinyurl.com/4lhovkv
That is just one of the trees, and was after most of the fruit had been picked. There was so much that the branches were breaking!! My garden is only 11-ish feet wide, so 5 twenty plus feet high trees is a bit much.
Thanks in advance people! :)
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cheapo

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cheapo wrote:

I would reduce them. You can cut them quite severely if you do it in later winter to early spring before the sap rises. Just how far you can cut them depends a bit on conformation but down to 8-10ft would not be out of the question. I know some people who would take them down to 5-6ft and then train the growing branches out instead of up to avoid using a ladder to harvest again. The crop will be much reduced for a year or two but they will come back and if you shape them well look better for it. Be careful not to allow tearing of the bark and soft tissues as you cut larger branches as the weight will make them tend to pull down as you cut.
David
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'David Hare-Scott[_2_ Wrote:

It is generally recommended to prune plum trees, and other stone fruit, in high summer because of the risk of them getting silver leaf infection if pruned at any other time of year.
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echinosum

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echinosum wrote:

Going to my books this seems recommended by some but not others. Some don't even mention the disease, I don't know anybody who prunes in summer, perhaps the fungus is not endemic here. Well live and learn. Apparently the fungus is susceptible to common sprays used for other fungi so that may be a safeguard.
David
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Thanks for your replies. Hmm, they may not actually be 25ft high, but definitely 20 and slender trunks. I really do want to totally reduce the height of the trees rather than just prune them. I think I will try to go for the 5/6 foot level, if I can find a bud point (I just looked that up) and train the new growth out sideways. And I may even get rid of two or three completely as the summer growth of the 5 trees overhangs both of my neighbours on both sides and those at the back too. Though they all had lots of fruit, as did a friend across the road. I'll cut the trunks off at an angle, so that rain runs off, and coat the cuts with this special sealer from the garden centre. Do you reckon I could splice healthy growth into the trunk? Just a thought really. Is there a season for that too? I just read "Prune in June" somewhere. And yes, I had heard about the silverleaf thingy from someone last year when I mentioned cutting them back.
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cheapo

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Didn't think of grafting but that is a good option. Here is some info you may not have found as yet:
http://cals.arizona.edu/pubs/garden/mg/propagation/grafting.html
do watch cutting branches back properly to get a good wound seal. It is more than just a quick cut and some wax.
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In article

Plum branches make wonderful forced flowers for a early taste of spring.
http://thurly.net/10u3
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Bill S. Jersey USA zone 5 shade garden

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Bad idea. <http://www.extension.iastate.edu/article/ask-isu-extension-garden-expert s-about-pruning-trees> Painting pruning wounds Should I paint the pruning wounds on my trees? Do not apply a pruning paint or wound dressing to pruning wounds. The application of a pruning paint or wound dressing does not prevent wood decay and may actually interfere with the trees natural wound responses. Oak trees are an exception to the no paint recommendation. To prevent the transmission of oak wilt, oak trees should not be pruned in spring and summer. If an oak tree needs to be pruned during the growing season, for example to correct storm damage, immediately (within 15 minutes) paint the pruning cuts with a latex house paint. Winter (December, January and February) is the best time to prune oak trees in Iowa. There is no need to paint the pruning wounds when oaks are pruned in winter.

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Billy wrote:

Is there a difference depending on what you paint with? There are preparations around that are supposed to seal the wound, these are out of fashion with horticulturists as they say such sealant just locks the fungi and spores inside and ultimately don't do much good. But what about a fungicide that doesn't seal, eg bordeaux mix? The aim there is to reduce the chance of infection by reducing the count of spores etc. Does that sort of treatment qualify as "painting'?
David

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billy made a fair point made about oaks that may translate to most deciduous.
However, there are many theories as well as materials for wound painting such as the three methods from UC Davis for fruit trees: http://homeorchard.ucdavis.edu/8058.pdf
Here is my mentor's take on it: http://www.puyallup.wsu.edu/~linda%20chalker-scott/Horticultural%20Myths_files/Myths/Wound%20sealer.pdf some others similar: http://www.extension.org/faq/1284 http://www.treedictionary.com/DICT2003/hardtoget/dressing_13/index.html
I read most of the Bonsai community don't seal branch cuts much these days. yet some still do, but most all do use lime sulfur (lime sulphur for you) on their trees especially when they create a jin* or a shari. So is it a matter of ingredients? I still search info on that with the worry about phytotoxicity. (BTW, there is an article in the site below that addresses preserving deadwood that could be of interest : http://www.bonsai4me.com/AdvTech/ATPreserving%20Deadwood.html )
*Jin: http://www.bonsai4me.com/AdvTech/ATCreating%20Deadwood.html
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Don't know. I got slapped around once for suggesting it, and haven't found any sites that recommend it.
=
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In article

I posted only about what to do with the pruned branches. Forcing them.
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Bill S. Jersey USA zone 5 shade garden

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I've been honing my craft skills (cut & paste), but the above attribution is an artifact of my MT-NewsWatcher, i.e. it's not my fault. Sorry for any ruffled feathers.
Hows the sledding? It's hard for me to believe that you are actually having worse weather than Mr. Underlog, out in the "fly over". Today your high is higer, but your low is lower. How far are you from the Atlantic? Is there no moderating effect from the ocean?
Here in Northern California we are in a pattern of sun, then rain, but I think we are out of the cold weather that we were having. It has warmed up some at night. The area where we live used to be a recreational area with summer homes. Some of them were single wall. The older homes have a hard time keeping up with freezing temperatures. I keep thinking that we are the last to be burning wood, and then suddenly piles of wood pop up in peoples drive ways. I've pretty much cleaned up any tree branches that were lying around. Between a short harvest which has had me home more during the day, and our run of cold (for here) nights, we are almost down to "Presto" logs.
Potatoes came up on their own. I have some lettuce and peas in the incubator but they are probably 3 weeks away from planting. Bought a dozen lettuces from the nursery just to get thing going. Planting them today.
The main beds are preped. I still need to prep the trellises (amendments, newspaper, alfalfa), and pull some weeds in the shadier beds.
Well, enough leaning on the fence, back to work. Lettuce to plant. Kindling to cut, and dinner to make (sausages, boiled potatoes, and sauerkraut tonight, it'll be easy ;O)

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Superfluous BS snipped:

Chalk it up as collateral damage of a faux KF BWP, next will be a lengthy subtrafuge of disjointed BS.
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Rachel Maddow reminds me of the shrink on 2 & 1/2 Men. <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/#41959570
You force them? I thought you were more of a pacifist.
====
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In article

Yea but I am gentle. Stick a few small branches in water in early spring and you may fool them to bloom. Read that pussy willow twigs soaked in water increases the chance that the twigs may form roots. Sort of a cheap root tone.
Meanwhile I hope our March is 4 foot lighter with the ground water starting to rise. Last years was wet in march and dry for the rest of the summer.
Just had about 3 inches and another looks due tomorrow. High 46 F. forecasted. Thinking about getting the seed sit up going.
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Bill S. Jersey USA zone 5 shade garden

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Woah! Thanks a million for all your replies folks, whether on or off topic, all are faskinating and some useful. Now I'm starting to think it's easier to install a new alternator in my car than shorten a few trees! Hahaha! My main task in the garden is to constantly ignore it. ;)
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cheapo

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You know your height need to come down, just don't do it too fast or cut too much....Maybe 3-5 years to get it to a trainable height...
this is some info on summer and dormant pruning that may help guide you: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/ag29.html http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/files/filelibrary/2002/3363.pdf
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Gunner wrote:

I am not trying to start an argument because I have never done very heavy pruning of fruit trees. I do know of cases where very heavy pruning has been done in one go and the trees survived.
One was a case of severe drought where the owner saved a citrus orchard by cutting the mature trees down to pretty well leafless stumps about 1.2m (4ft) high. When it rained they all re-sprouted and in two years he was back in production. The other was a bloke who experiments with many exotic fruit trees (his orchard has 100s of trees) who moves mature trees if he thinks they could do better in another spot. He cuts them down to a stump about 1.2 to 1.8 m(4 to 6ft) before digging them up. He will try this with any kind of tree and reports high success rates.
David
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A good point. You can prune most fruit trees back very heavily with a wide degree of success. No argument there. Your guy was back to a crop in a couple of years and I'm sure in 3-5 he is back to his old yield levels, my suggestion keeps it averaged out and less risky to the tree overall. Its just a different and vastly more cautious approach. As a rule I do not remove more than 1/3 of any tree at any one time, and only then with a specific reason for such. I admit Im much more influenced by the bonsai philosophy these days than in the past. Takes a long time to grow a good tree. Now if the trees have "climbed to the light" and are overly stretched (thin or slender) and there are a strong branch or two to pull nutes and PGH, I would not hesitate to do a whack job to height on them to bring them back into training. Regardless, I read his questions and facts and viewed the pic perhaps a bit differently. A known reference point(s) in the pic would help but I do not think I would change my recommendation to go slow, especially not knowing the long term goal. If ya screw up it will be dead for a long time!
I feel its better to build up the tree trunk/branches a bit more before you start getting the big flush of growth that follows a serious pruning. Cheapo had stated already the branches were breaking with so much fruit. Also, note that the excess vigor that can result from severe pruning can decrease fruit quality.
This from the AZ Master Gardener website explains my thoughts on this: http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/garden/mg/pruning/fruit.html :
Future pruning of an apple tree is greatly affected by early training. Much of the pruning of young, bearing trees is the result of errors made in training in the early life of the tree. Thus, it is imperative that training begin early. A delay for the first 3 to 4 years will result in a poorly-developed, weak tree. Correction of such a problem, usually with heavy pruning, will only further delay and decrease fruit production.
But, again not to say your guys methodology will not work either. G
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