When pruning the Carob

When pruning the Carob

The carob (Ceratonia siliqua L., 1753) is a fruit tree of the Fabaceae family and is a predominantly dioecious plant (there are plants with only male flowers and trees with only female flowers, they rarely have flowers of both sexes on the same plant ).
This plant, due to its characteristics, can bear flowers, fruits and leaves at the same time, being evergreen and the ripening of the fruits is very long.
The carob is cultivated especially in North Africa, Greece and Cyprus and, to a lesser extent, in Spain, southern Italy and Albania.
In Italy it is still present and cultivated in Sicily, even if the economic importance of this production is unfortunately in decline and most of the crops are in the province of Ragusa.
The carob is a rustic, undemanding plant that grows well in arid and poor soils, even with a lot of limestone, it does not withstand freezing, but tolerates hot climates well.
Although very rustic plant, it is affected by pruning techniques and above all by the periods in which this must be carried out.
In the carob we can distinguish three types of pruning, which must be carried out at different times: production pruning, renewal and green pruning.

Production pruning –
The production pruning of the carob tree must be carried out, on adult and already formed plants, starting from April or anticipated in the southernmost regions and in the areas closest to the coastal areas. In the northern areas it is good to wait for the frost to end and postpone this operation in the second part of spring. An alternative is to carry out the production pruning immediately after harvesting, also eliminating the damaged branches, especially if harvesting with shakers is used.
The production pruning of the carob tree must be carried out sporadically and with interventions every 2 or 3 years. In practice, very light interventions are carried out keeping the adult plants in a stable vegetative condition.
This intervention becomes important in the years when the season is particularly favorable, when you can have a good harvest, an abundance of flowers and periods with distributed but not insistent rains. In this case the cuts affect the upper part of the crown in the central point, here you will have to allow a good distribution of the branches by removing the very dense and bundled ones to allow the light to penetrate well, always maintaining a good balance between the vegetative and productive phase.

Renewal pruning –
The renewal pruning of the carob tree aims to remove damaged and too perishable branches to support the growth of further secondary branches.
In fact, it can be noted that in carob trees grown without interventions for long years there will certainly be very confused vegetation, with many crossed branches and a very dense crown.
With this technique you need to thin out the central part by eliminating the bundled branches. Then we will proceed with the removal at the base of the 1-2 year old branches that grow vertically on the branches. At the same time the damaged branches will be cut down to the healthy wood, while the deteriorated ones will be removed at their intersection.
In renewal pruning, large cuts on extended branches must be avoided unless there are health problems or canopy structure problems.

Green pruning –
In the carob this technique must be carried out every two or three years only on adult plants that have already assumed their final shape and have entered production.
In green pruning the cuts concern only the forms that must be grown in height; in practice, we operate with topping on the lower branches as described in the breeding pruning.
Remember that any cutting operation must be performed with very sharp and previously disinfected tools; moreover, on the cuts made, especially on older specimens, it will be necessary to cover them with protective mastic.

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