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Shoveling snow off of fruit trees

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The very thing that generally gives me a guilt-free pass from gardening — snow — delivered an usual chore this week: shoveling fruit tree branches.

Snow is nothing new here, but it came so fast and so wet and heavy (and so much of it!) that trees all over town strained and split with the extra weight. I don’t want my little peach tree to suffer the same fate, which is why I tromped through knee-high banks to scrape snow off its branches. The tree is in my front yard, a steep slope of three terraces. In the best of weather it’s like playing mountain goat to garden there. I’m sure I gave my neighbors quite the show as I climbed the hill and hoped to not lose my footing.

Ah, that’s better.
Pruning tactics to maximize fruit production and sunlight to each branch also create a basin for snow. Hold your hand out, palm up, to see how. Hold your arm vertically from the elbow, with the hand bent back, as if you were a waiter holding a tray. Now curve your fingers. Your forearm is the trunk and your curled fingers the branches. When snow makes a branch bend at a notch, the risk for breakage is high.
My tree is against a retaining wall, where the upper level provides an easy reach to all the branches. (It’s why we planted it there, for easier harvest.) If you attempt to remove snow from a bigger tree, be careful. Use a shovel to PUSH snow away from you, rather than pull it toward you. Obviously you don’t want to get a snow shower, but you also don’t want to dislodge an already weakened branch and have it fall on you. Consider that bent branches may whip upward when snow is removed; another reason to keep your distance and use a long-handled tool. Watch out for power lines.
I don’t anticipate having to shovel fruit tree branches with every snowstorm, just when the weight of snow makes the boughs bow. (See what I did there?) 

Swing on tree heavy-laden with snow.

Oops! The patio furniture got left out.

What’s your most unusual off-season gardening chore?


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