The Margan Garden - Trees & Pruning

Over the three decades of Margan Wines’ existence, it has been a shared effort amongst the property owners the Margan Family, a team of horticulturalists and gardeners, and vineyard workers to build on the natural beauty, biodiversity and produce that the grounds offer through a range of plantings. Of course, there are lots of grape vines (hundreds and thousands, in fact) but also a variety of plants including trees of all varieties. Our riverbank regeneration has hundreds of native trees to maintain the banks, attract beneficial insects, increase biodiversity as well as carbon sequestration benefits. They are small now but will be a magnificent tree lot for future generations to enjoy. As goes the Indian proverb, “Blessed is he who plants trees under whose shade he will never sit,”

At Margan we value sustainability and always play ‘the long game’ so many trees have been planted over the decades knowing that it may not only be us who reap the immediate rewards but also those who will enjoy them in the years to come.

Our orchard was mostly planted 15 years ago and also plays an important role on the property. Fruit tree blossoms attract bees which are a key part in the quality and quantity of fruit and vegetables in the garden. Trees have fairly basic needs but require a bit of love and care. When we plant young saplings, we often envisage their future - how they will look upon maturing and what they will offer us in terms of fruit. The key to ensuring our trees fulfil this desire is through maintenance. This could involve managing irrigation through dry spells, observing for disease and pests, and mitigating future similar incidents, as well as pruning the branches of a tree.

Winter time is the time to prune as the sap in the branches slow down. We are pruning all our grape vines across 100 hectares of vineyards. Last month we embarked on pruning the olive trees which line the driveway of our Fordwich Hill vineyards. It’s an extensive but rewarding task, and this past week we have been giving the fruit trees in our chicken yard a cut back.

Pruning is essentially the act of giving trees the botanical equivalent of a haircut. If hair is left to grow without care, then it will inevitably become unkept and messy. A similar concept applies with trees. The results of not giving fruit trees at least an annual prune include increased chances of disease spreading due to branches tangling with one another and reducing aeration of the canopy. By opening the inside of a fruit tree, we allow more sunlight and airflow to circulate, therefore allowing less moisture to build up amongst the branches which is a common cause of fungal disease. If disease is prevented a tree is far more capable of producing good quality fruit. Similarly, removing unnecessary or dead branches means that more of the energy produced by the tree can be directed towards healthy fruit bearing branches, increasing yield.

Pruning fruit trees is also an effective way of shaping a tree to its desired form. For example, we try to maintain a consistent vase shape amongst our olive trees, with one main stem developing into numerous smaller branches. This is generally considered a pleasing shape to the eye, and by keeping the canopy relatively low and rounded we can harvest fruit from the trees with greater ease come summer.

If pruning is done consistently each year, then it may be as easy as snipping off young shoots with a pair of secateurs. However, heavier pruning may be required for trees which have been left to grow unattended for several years. At this stage more durable tools such as shears, loppers or even a chainsaw may have to be called upon. Despite this, the methods of pruning remain relatively simple.

The recommended shoots and branches to remove are any which are dead, growing inwards or crossing over another branch. Once those are taken care of, it’s just a matter of shaping and forming the tree to your personal preference. Step back, take a more considered look at the overall shape of the tree and take your time!

If you are visiting Margan, come and say hello, I’ll be in the garden!