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How do you harvest your tall trees?

 
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What permaculture methods do you use for tall standard apple trees, pears, etc?

If you have a large farm taking a ladder to each tree seems very time consuming
 
pollinator
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I have seen a topless IBC on pallet forks on a tractor used to lift a pair of volunteers to tree level...

Seemed legit until someone climbed a ladder set inside the IBC...
 
pollinator
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There is a focus in some areas of permaculture to train the growth of trees, up to and including pruning, to keep them from getting as high as you describe. This won't help you with existing trees.

The safest method is probably a nice small cherry-picker. I think that I like the idea of helping trees to grow up and out rather than more or less as close to hand-picking level as possible, literal vertical gardening. Using a little electric cherry-picker with a hydraulic lift is probably the best way to access higher levels of trees.

Some will say that anything they can't reach is for the birds and wildlife, and some people let the tops provide windfalls after harvest season, for chickens or pigs or whatever.

And the most interesting idea, though dependent on the varietal (has to be late-bearing), is that of leaving the fruit to mature on the tree until after the first frost, and making ice cider with it, along the same lines as ice wine, but with apple as the base. But in that case, you'll definitely not want to be climbing up a ladder.

-CK
 
pollinator
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I believe Sepp holzer runs his animals under the tall trees to eat the fallen fruit.  And so he gets the value from the animals when the time is right.
 
steward
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I pick with an extendible fruit picker.  Mine extends 13' so I can get stuff about 18' off the ground.  It's slow though and a hell of a shoulder workout.  Keep the bucket 13' away from you on the ground so when you fill the basket you can lower it down to the bucket and let the fruit tumble out.  It works fine for homestead scale harvesting but wouldn't work for a market garden or farm.

 
james buttler
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I like the idea of having tall trees to use the space more wisely. As you say vertical gardening.

I suppose there is the option of having nut trees as the main trees that grow to those heights in the centre of the guilds and having smaller Apple and fruit trees under the canopy of the nuts.

Am I right in thinking nuts can be harvested with a net under the tree and let the fall naturally or does this not work?

I like your tool that picks the fruit I am wanting to setup a large commercial farm though and I am trying to figure out how I would manage a farm if it was to be run as a permaculture farm. Hand picking 100 trees myself would be one hell of a chore for little return considering the sale price of apples.

 
Mike Jay
steward
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Ahh, so you don't currently have a bunch of standard apple trees to pick?  That gives you some options.  Have you read about Mark Shepard's agricultural systems?  He has a permaculture mindset to large scale farming that he discusses in his book (Restoration Agriculture).
 
pollinator
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You can just let nuts fall to the ground. There are some simple devices to pick them up. I don’t know if they work. My trees are still young, so I haven’t needed one yet. http://nutwizard.com/  They sell these at farm supply stores here
 
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Last fall I collected about 20 shopping bags of apples to make juice from. I fabricated an apple picker from some pvc electrical conduit. I softened the end (about 1 ft) with a heat gun, flattened it, and formed it into a hook shape.

I then cut a v shaped groove in the end with the idea that the apple stalk would fit in the groove and I can pull the apple off the tree. Since I was juicing I wasn't concerned with bruising.

It worked really well, and I was surprised how little bruising actually happened. But it was really slow. In the end I used the hook to shake the branch and dozens of apples fell to the ground all at once.

Next fall I am going to add an extension to my apple picker using another length of electrical conduit. I'll fabricate a locking mechanism by cutting an L shaped groove in one end, and inserting a screw in the other that will fit into the groove.
 
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last fall (2018) we have hung some nets under our two walnut trees, just like they do under almond and olive trees
that allowed us to harvest 90-95% or more of the walnuts
The "nutwizard" will only work if you have a very short trimmed lawn under the trees, else it will only be a source of frustration
last year I have also in time harvested green, unripe walnuts, soaked them for a whole winter in a mixture of wine, lemons and herbs
the result is a very Vermouth like "aperitif"
should any of you consider to do so, time is rapidly fading to harvest green unripe walnuts, give or take one month away
I also have bought a similar "fruit picker" to pick apples and pears high from our trees
just need to find and buy the best available expandible handle to reach up high enough
I have drunk a lot of wine this winter, and kept all modern bottles with airtight screw caps for next fall,
to bottle our own apple juice and, who knows, our own apple cider, maybe even our own distilled "Calvados"
greets
Frank
 
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When I was the foreman of a ranch in NM, I had a moderate orchard of apples, pears, and peaches to pick. I used the ordinary commercial fruit-picking ladders, much wider at the bottom and with a pole attached near the top which extends as a support. They are far more stable than they look, and with a fruit-picking bag over my shoulder I could pick a lot of fruit fast. I've never found a better way to do it.

Marketing fruit will bring in a lot more money if you process it. Slice and dry it, or can it as purée. A commercial kitchen may be required in which to do the processing, in order to legally sell processed fruit, but these are usually not difficult of access, depending on what is near you. Also, fruit will keep over the winter if you store it properly, in a conventional root cellar or a more modern temperature-controlled unit.

 
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The trees can be easily left or minorly pruned to develop the shape of a ladder. Use the tree itself to get on the tree. Also leaving some for the birds, I totally agree. There is so much that birds will give in return. Mental things like their cuteness and singing and practical like their manure, eating pests, or pooping of seeds of other trees that WILL sprout because they have been through the bird's digestive system. Finally, the higher a tree gets the deeper its roots go in the ground bringing up humidity and nutrients from the subsoil. So everyone please leave your saws down...Let nature thrive by the human doing less. Thank you
 
pollinator
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james buttler wrote:What permaculture methods do you use for tall standard apple trees, pears, etc?
If you have a large farm taking a ladder to each tree seems very time consuming



Depending on whether you can spare some of the crop, I would invite the chickens to do the "cleanup" of the orchard. That is certainly the easiest and cheapest way to deal with high trees. The orchard will need cleaning after the fruit are off, and chickens will do a wonderful job of that: rotting fruit invite all kinds of pests, so that is the plan. I have mostly semi-dwarf fruit trees, so I don't have the problem, although a number of my mulberry trees, which I could have trained as a bush, I didn't. They are just starting to give, and in a few years, I'll place large tarps under them and shake them.
Some trees, like cherries can be trained to weep when they are young, so that most of the crop is within reach. Or they may be coppiced every few years. We don't have to harvest every last fruit, so yes, a number of fruit invite birds. It is not a problem: We like song birds and still have more fruit than we can use. My husband and I are in our 70s, so I don't see myself climbing ladders to harvest the last apple any more. If we had vigorous neighbors close by, we might invite their kids to share the crop with us: They do the harvesting and they get half of the crop in payment. [Although that is fraught with perils: what if a kid gets hurt on your property, right?]
I have selected good trees and weed trees: The best trees get all our care. The other ones tend to invite pests, but while the pests are on them, they leave the good trees alone. (This assumes that birds will on their own select the weed trees for themselves, right? Blackbirds are in a category all by themselves: They will pick at one fruit to test it, [always the best ones!] then another and another. They are a real pain, and let's face it, shiny balls, noisy crackly things, the owls, the scarecrow are only effective for a short while.
 
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Dillon Nichols wrote:I have seen a topless IBC on pallet forks on a tractor used to lift a pair of volunteers to tree level...

Seemed legit until someone climbed a ladder set inside the IBC...



Works for me... lol
jim-and-dennis.jpg
[Thumbnail for jim-and-dennis.jpg]
 
gardener
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james buttler wrote:What permaculture methods do you use for tall standard apple trees, pears, etc?

If you have a large farm taking a ladder to each tree seems very time consuming



I prune the tops of the trees so I can harvest everything from a 10 foot ladder.
If we had more trees, such as a full blown orchard business, I would probably espalier the trees so I didn't have to leave the ground to harvest all the fruits.
One of the big things we have to think about on Buzzard's Roost is aging and still keeping everything manageable for us as we get older.

Redhawk
 
pollinator
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I dislike the fruit pickers, having found them to cause more trouble than they solve.  I've got a couple tall pear trees that I pick by climbing and picking.  But there are some fruits that are too high up to reach by climbing, and my method there is to get as high up as I can and shake the tree, causing the ripe fruits to fall.  There's usually a little damage to the fruits, but they're still perfectly usable.
 
pollinator
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I have 100 year old apple trees but I also have a 40 foot long extension pole from my janitorial days. so I can reach some fruit for fresh sale. The picker has a wite hop and a cloth bag. where the wire comes together at the handle that screws on the extension pole is a small pruner that I can pull a cord to snip off the stem.
The original poster it seems is asking for theoretical ideas for a permaculture plan that avoids the problem without machinery like is used in modern spindle pruned orchard that uses a wagon with a lift with 2 men on each side and storage for the picked apples in between.  It is also used for pruning in the winter time.
The point is plant and train the trees according to your harvest plan. Can you terrace a hillside so the top of the tree can be harvested from the terrace above?   Young fruit tree growth is easy to bend so train it for easy harvest as Red Hawk suggested. one of the old trees had a branch a foot in diameter and 20 feet long and 10 feet up which shaded windows in the summer. You could open the windows to harvest the fruit. It failed in a snow storm because of poor management in the past. Some one cut large branches off at the top so the center rotted and was eaten away by wood borers. The tree still lives on as a hollow trunk with a small tree at the top.
I think the ideal tree is a huge fan shape at the bottom and then a single center leader that is allowed to reach the trees natural height but not width of branches. when a tree has its natural height pruning it back produces less  sending up vertical growth to try to restore the lost height when pruned. This results in having many easterly reachable fruit and only a few high ones
For more Ideas go to Fruit Growers News to see the orchard designs and machines that have been developed to answer this question.
Harvester described above
 
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