The Lorette System of Pruning for Intensive Fruit Production
in My Backyard Garden
The Lorette System of Pruning
Louis Lorette was curator and professor at the Pratical School of Agriculture at Wagonville in the district of Douai in France at the turn of the century 100 years ago (early 1900's). I couldn't find this on a map, so maybe the name has changed after two wars. I did find a town named Douai in Nord Pas de Calais district, so it was probably located near there. Lorette noticed as a young man that well trained trees, pruned carefully each winter, produced much less fruit than standard trees that were left unpruned. Around 1898, Lorette began a series of experiments that showed that apple and pear tree buds formed at the base of a branch are more productive than those formed farther up the branch. In 1912, an article was published in the French gardening magazine "Jardinage" describing a new pruning system for apples and pears that had resulted in huge crops without the usual winter pruning. Crowds of people turned up at the school to see for themselves, 3000 that first season. The Lorette Method was controversial since it went against the establish rules of Pruning Science. In 1925, an english version of Lorette's book "Lorette System of Pruning" was published. I obtained a copy of the eighth printing form my local library (Rodale Press 1932), and I read it cover-to-cover. This book is out-of-print, but I have seen it for sale on the internet at a few antique bookshops ($30-$50). I have a small garden with a number of apple trees, and reading this book has inspired me to produce more than I currently do from my modest orchard. How productive can I make these trees, and how come I never heard of this technique before? Why don't more backyard gardeners use this method to maximize their yields? I will try to answer these questions on this page.
---Summary of the Lorette System
1. Don't prune in the winter, except for removing main branches from the framework of the tree.
2. Don't prune until around the middle of June. At this point in the season, leaves and new shoots are almost fully mature.
3. Only remove branches when they are pencil thickness. Makes cuts almost to the base of the branch. Fruit spurs will form as a result where each year fruit will form.
4. Every 30 days of the growing season after the first pruning, remove any branches that are now large enough.
In cool climates, a Modified Lorette System is practiced: one pruning in mid-August to the third leaf of all pencil diameter branches, followed in winter by removal of those same branches down to almost the base where fruit spurs are forming.
---How the system works and benefits of the system
New lateral shoots are allowed to almost mature, and this causes buds to convert to fruit spurs, instead of converting to to new shoots (vegetive growth). This conversion of buds to fruit spurs occurs in sequence along the length of a branch, with the first to convert being at the base of the branch. With winter-only pruning, fruit tends to form only at the end of branches, and the fruit is sparse. With the Lorette system, fruiting takes place at the base of branches giving the fruit better support via the main branches. Fruiting also happens earlier in the tree's life compared to winter-only pruning. Another advantage of the Lorette method is to open up the tree, giving fruit exposure to the sun (better color).
I will be posting photos of my trees and others in the future, in this space....
Send me comments on the Lorette Method of Pruning and on this web page. I am especially interested in forming espalier apple trees of the single cordon form. You can reach me at email@example.com
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My grafting projects
I graft mostly apple and pear trees on dwarf rootstocks. The method I use is _____. I hold the graft together with budding rubbers and parafilm, which is available from ____________.
Here is a list of my successes:
Fireside apple, 1994
Flemish Beauty pear, 1994
Seneca Plum, 199x
...work in progress
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