Over the years, I’ve experimented with a number of approaches to developing ume. I’ve fully defoliated the tree in spring, partially defoliated it, and avoided defoliating at all. I’ve let it grow stronger before pruning and kept it in shape with regular pruning. To date, I haven’t seen a big difference in how the tree responds to these different approaches.
Overall I’ve found that ume develop branch density quickly. After letting the branches grow in spring, I’ll prune in May, June, or July and expect to see a new flush of growth develop over summer.
Last year I pruned the tree in July but the tree didn’t produce any summer shoots. This made me think the tree wasn’t as strong as it had been in previous years so I let it grow freely this spring.
Large new shoots
Because the tree had grown so vigorously this spring, I’m pruning it on the early side. Instead of defoliating or partially defoliating, I’m simply cutting back to two or three buds depending on which way the buds point.
After cutback – 16″
I’ll be curious to see if the tree produces new shoots over summer. If it does, I’ll be able to prune again in fall when the leaves turn color.
In the meantime, I’ll water more and more as the temperatures heat up and fertilize the tree through summer and fall.
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