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Laidback Gardening with Robert Kourik

Laidback Gardening with Robert Kourik
Drawing by Amie Hill



Now is the time to prune fruit trees. But there’s another amazing way to get fruit. Along with pruning now, try notching in the early spring.

Notching helps produce a flower bud or shoot growth because the hormones of a tree move around in such a way as to allow you to place a shoot or fruit bud exactly where you want one. A hormone sends a signal from the tip of the branch (called an apical bud) down to the buds below, “telling” them not to sprout. By scouring a notch above a dormant bud, the bud doesn’t receive this hormonal signal from the apical bud, and as a result, the dormant bud will sprout into a shoot.

The carbohydrates of a tree must be stored in a bud for it to form a flower. When carbohydrates are generated, they’re often sent down the limb into the trunk and roots. Notching below the dormant bud stops the carbohydrates from traveling down to the roots and stores them in the bud, causing it to become a flower bud.

Notching works best on shoots that are one or two years old and is best done at two to four weeks before full bloom. To notch, take a 3/8-inch round rat-tail file and use it (like you’re playing the violin) to score above or below the bud just deep enough to remove the green tissue (the cambium) under the bark. Be sure to score at least halfway around the shoot. One twist of the wrist and you’ve got a new shoot or flower bud, a nice result from so little effort.