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Fruit Trees That Lean. To straighten or not to straighten...

 
gardener
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Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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This spring I planted several varieties of fruit trees, and now some of them are leaning pretty drastically, I assume because of the wind. The trees I planted, were pointed slightly towards the prevailing winds but I was gone for most of the plantings, and my colleagues didn't always follow my advice on this.

My understanding is that it's best to not stake fruit trees, unless they can't hold themselves up. That the stake is like a crutch that allows them to be weaker and less resilient than if they were left to stand on their own.

However, I've also read that trees that have a drastic lean, will yield significantly less fruit over its lifetime than if it were straight.

SO... I'm thinking that I will straighten the trees (and bend them a bit into the wind) using old garden hose wrapped around rope or cable, held to the ground by a tent peg. I will put the cable as low to the ground as possible, so that the tree still has to do some 'fending for itself'. As soon as the tree seems 'righted' I'll remove the cable. MY concern is that I'll have babied the tree by this time, and it'll have become dependent on the cable. What say you?
 
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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The received wisdom in the industry seems to be to use something with some flexibility in it so that the tree can still move back and forth a bit (without completely falling over), which will help it develop strength in its roots. Seems to work fine with me. You remove it after a year or two when the tree looks big enough to handle a bit of wind.
 
Travis Philp
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Thanks Hugh. So would rope be the best option then, or is there a material that works better?
 
Hugh Hawk
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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I've seen hessian strips used (5cm wide or so). Personally I have been using flexible 4mm poly irrigation tubing I had lying around. I put it in a figure 8 pattern like the image below (plan view) with an extra loop. The posts are on either side and the tree in the middle. This allows the tree to move a bit in all directions.

 
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