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About Plums

 
Craig Dobbelyu
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forest garden hugelkultur
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I have about 12 plum trees in various states of neglect. It looks like the previous owner just planted them on the hillside about 5 feet apart from one another and then never touched them again. Last year I took on the task of sorting them out. Almost every tree trunk is between 5 and 8 inches in diameter. I saved what I could but the grape vines destroyed the canopy of the plums. Being so close together, they were all scrawny and in poor structural shape. I cut out all the dead wood, crossing branches and most of the ones branches that went vertically. After doing that, I have to admit that they don't look all that great.

1. Can I just lop the whole crown off the badly damages plum trees and have any reasonable chance of them regrowing and producing fruit some years from now?
2. If I can cut the trunk back to any height, what would be a good place to cut it to make the fruit easy to access?
3. Being that the trees are so close together, is it a good idea to dig up and move some of them to give them more space? When should I do this? OR Should I just cut every other tree to the ground and kill the stump?
4. I was thinking about Building my chicken coop to include the plum trees. Good Idea? Bad Idea?


Thanks in advance. I have been using these forums for only a few months but I've gained a lifetime's worth of knowledge. Go Permies!



 
Ken Peavey
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Mind you, I'm kinda new with trees so don't take me as an expert. Consider these as the responses of a layman...

1 Topping the tree may slow upward growth or even stop it completely. I think you would still be able to expalier the tree.
2 If fruit show up in good volume, the high branches would bow down from the weight. I'm thinking higher would be better than lower.
3 Save what you can first
4 The birds will scratch the soil in search of bugs. I think this would expose roots which may allow new shoots to grow. Also, the trunk will widen over time and I think the shade of the coop would hinder growth.
 
Jordan Lowery
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wild plums or cultivated?
 
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator
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Location: Maine (zone 5)
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forest garden hugelkultur
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hubert cumberdale wrote:wild plums or cultivated?


My best guess is that they are some European type. I got a whopping two (2) fruits from one tree a couple years ago. The plums were purpleish with red flesh. Considering that the tree was in such bad shape, I was surprised that the fruit was pretty sweet. I'm not even sure if they are are the same type of plum. Or if they are all plums at all. Are there similar trees that look like plums?

I do have quite a lot of shoots coming up between that trees. I realize that they have to be cut out and then mulched to prevent them from interfering with the other trees.. Is it possible to propagate them from the shoots with any assurance that they will produce a decent fruit? Is there any difference between propagating from "root shoots" and propagating from growth further up on the tree? and I have some fallow field that I could use to grow out some trees either for myself or for sale later on. Does anyone think this is a good idea? Is there a cheap method for accomplishing this if it's possible?

Lots of questions... I know.

Thanks
 
maikeru sumi-e
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Craig Doubleyou wrote:
hubert cumberdale wrote:wild plums or cultivated?


My best guess is that they are some European type. I got a whopping two (2) fruits from one tree a couple years ago. The plums were purpleish with red flesh. Considering that the tree was in such bad shape, I was surprised that the fruit was pretty sweet. I'm not even sure if they are are the same type of plum. Or if they are all plums at all. Are there similar trees that look like plums?

I do have quite a lot of shoots coming up between that trees. I realize that they have to be cut out and then mulched to prevent them from interfering with the other trees.. Is it possible to propagate them from the shoots with any assurance that they will produce a decent fruit? Is there any difference between propagating from "root shoots" and propagating from growth further up on the tree? and I have some fallow field that I could use to grow out some trees either for myself or for sale later on. Does anyone think this is a good idea? Is there a cheap method for accomplishing this if it's possible?

Lots of questions... I know.

Thanks


If they are grafted trees (and I think they probably are), the roots will be wild-type plums, which could be anything, and further growth up will be the specific varieties grafted. You could take a chance and see if the roots have anything to offer, but it's a real unknown.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator
Posts: 1239
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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forest garden hugelkultur
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maikeru sumi-e wrote:

If they are grafted trees (and I think they probably are), the roots will be wild-type plums, which could be anything, and further growth up will be the specific varieties grafted. You could take a chance and see if the roots have anything to offer, but it's a real unknown.


If the rootstock is wild then I could use them to graft onto right?
If I propagate rootstock and the resulting fruit isn't great then at least I still have a viable rootstock for grafting the tops of my existing trees onto. Is that worth the effort? Any idea how much a decent tree propagated this way would sell for? Seems like it could be a money maker, at least in the sort term.
 
Leonard Barrett
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Location: Portland, OR
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Craig, I don't think this has already been mentioned, but forgive me if it has. You can also top-work them, i.e. cut them back to a stump, let new suckers coppice back, and graft or bud (budding often more common with stone fruit) onto those....see the links below for more info.


http://apps.rhs.org.uk/advicesearch/Profile.aspx?pid=400

http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/components/dg0532c.html

Some potentially helpful (but possibly just more confusing) discussion: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/fruit/msg011538543617.html
 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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unless you have experienced them bear, let them bear before you do more....

find out which trees have the best plums, and then if there are some that are crappy, you can either remove them or graft good plums on them.

plums do do better with a pollinator so you might want to consider leaving a pollinator for them..also..check and see which ones are in bloom at the same time..

I wouldn't lop the tops off of them..but pruning out like you did sure cannot hurt !!

remember sometimes you can even graft other fruits onto plums like peaches, nectarines, apricots, etc..but sometimes they carry the same diseases so be watchful there.

anyway I'd wait until the next crop before doing anything else..feed them well and mulch them well..and plant some good Dynamic accumumlators, insectary and nitrogen fixers under them..
 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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some thoughts:

If you cut too much live wood off (more than ~1/3 of the canopy), you are likely to stimulate a lot of vegetative growth at the expense of fruit, in the near term.

If you feel you need to lop off the top of the tree, make sure you leave at least one live branch remaining to bud and regrow from. I wouldn't try and depend on new buds from the trunk for trees that size.

If you can't see the graft site anymore, I would still assume it is somewhere within 3 inches to a foot from the ground level, and wouldn't top it back below that.

Plums in general grow quickly and fruit quickly if they are grafted trees. If you have any grafting experience, you could probably harvest suckers from the rootstock, replant them where you'd like them and graft scions from the suffering trees. Given good conditions, you may get fruit from these within 2-3 years.

 
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator
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Location: Maine (zone 5)
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forest garden hugelkultur
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Thanks for all the help folks. I spent the better part of yesterday just cleaning up the Plum trees a little. I was working on my apple trees and decided that some work had to be done with the plums as well. I removed a lot of dead wood and a few limbs that were badly damaged from rubbing against other branches. I left as much of the trees intact as possible though some were in just awful shape so I made a decision to cut the trunks at chest height and hope they sprout new limbs. I did that to a tree that was broken over last year and it grew about 20 little branches right at the place where I cut the trunk.

I have a LOT of shoots growing up from the roots of these trees. Probably hundreds of them. What is the best way to grow them out to full size trees? I'll have to move them but does that mean digging the roots up and replanting the tree or cutting the sucker and re-rooting it? The suckers are all in little clumps of a dozen or so 16 inch tree shoots. There are dozens of these little clumps mixed in amongst my mature trees. I have a lot of space to put new trees so attempting to grow out a hundred or so plum trees would be a fun undertaking. Any help would be appreciated

 
maikeru sumi-e
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Craig Doubleyou wrote:
maikeru sumi-e wrote:

If they are grafted trees (and I think they probably are), the roots will be wild-type plums, which could be anything, and further growth up will be the specific varieties grafted. You could take a chance and see if the roots have anything to offer, but it's a real unknown.


If the rootstock is wild then I could use them to graft onto right?
If I propagate rootstock and the resulting fruit isn't great then at least I still have a viable rootstock for grafting the tops of my existing trees onto. Is that worth the effort? Any idea how much a decent tree propagated this way would sell for? Seems like it could be a money maker, at least in the sort term.


Probably. If you find the rootstock is well adapted to your area and vigorous, then why not? I don't know about profitability concerning this. I raise plums in the home orchard.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Everything that Brenda said and this --- Plums that are over pruned will reach for the sky with dozens of suckers growing tall and spindly. These will eventually put the fruit out of reach where only the birds will be fed. If these trees do prove to be good producers of desireable fruit, the best of this new growth can be bent toward the ground and held in place by ropes so that the trees develop a flattish top with accessable fruit. My best guess is that 90% of plums in Victoria go to waste either because the fruit is watery and bland or sour or because it's up way too high for safe picking. The birds get them and yellow jackets go at the mountains of plums that litter the ground. I met a drunk racoon who was eating half rotted plums.

You mentioned moving some of them. The good news is that plums are more resilient than most fruit trees. The bad news is that a relitively small tree often has a very substantial stump. You might need a tractor.
 
Mike Dayton
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I agree with the suggestion that you wait and see what kind of fruit you get from which trees that way you know what to save and what to cut out. Your trees are way to close together to produce well the way they are, so you will need to thin some out for the health of the best trees which you will save. Trying to move trees of that size does not make alot of sense. You may cut evey other one, but you may find that cutting 2 poor trees together and letting a good tree more room works better for you. The root suckers can be easily cut off and replanted else where. When you dig them up try and get as much root with each shoot as you can. Cut off the root on each end and plant the new shoot. Make sure that you water them in well and continue to water them untill they are growing well on their own. If there are 2 or 3 shoots together let them grow until they are well rooted and then cut off the smaller shoots leaving the best, straightest, most vigorous shoot to form your new tree. I can not tell from what has been said if your trees are grafted or not, but if they are grafted then you will want to graft buds from your best tasting fruit to your new root stock. I hope this helps you some, Good Luck with your project.
 
David Goodman
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On the topic of plums - I have an acre across the street from me with some wild plums on it. The talk of grafting has made me wonder: how hard is it to graft these things? Anyone do that before?

I imagine if it's being suggesting to remediate an untended orchard, it could also be used to add desirable commercial varieties on to the stock of wild trees. I've never grafted before, personally, but have heard you can do it with plums.
 
David Goodman
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Additionally, the local extension officer recommends a major cut-back on untended stone-fruit trees to revitalize them.
 
Brenda Groth
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another thing is how do you plan to use the plums..i got a gob of plums from a neighbor that were tasty..but small and had a large pit..they were a nightmare to use..

I would watch for those that come on with "freestones"..as they would be better for using ..I have wild plums here and the neighbors but planted freestone ones for my personal use.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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Location: Maine (zone 5)
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forest garden hugelkultur
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Of the few plums I have had from the trees, they were pretty sweet though the stone was attached. I was thinking that I would use them for fresh eating, jams, wine and then dehydrating the rest. I'm really interested in having more food than I need so that I can donate the rest to local charities and shelters. I don't feel right unless I'm sharing food with others. I'm sure some others here can understand what I mean by that.

I'll post some pictures of what I'm dealing with here later on tonight if I can.


 
Brenda Groth
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i read a recipe for I think it was Damson plum jam the other day and it said to let them boil until the stones rise to the top...hmmmm I thought..rise to the top..that would be nifty..as I tried prying those stones out of about a bushel of the sweet little clingstone plums I was given last year by a neighbor..not easy.

Maybe I'll give that a try this year.

also

I canned a bunch of those plums last fall, with the stones still in..maybe I'll haul some of them out of the jars and try making some jam out of the canned ones..maybe the stones would come out easier??
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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Location: Maine (zone 5)
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forest garden hugelkultur
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Brenda Groth wrote:i read a recipe for I think it was Damson plum jam the other day and it said to let them boil until the stones rise to the top...hmmmm I thought..rise to the top..that would be nifty..as I tried prying those stones out of about a bushel of the sweet little clingstone plums I was given last year by a neighbor..not easy.

Maybe I'll give that a try this year.

also

I canned a bunch of those plums last fall, with the stones still in..maybe I'll haul some of them out of the jars and try making some jam out of the canned ones..maybe the stones would come out easier??


I wonder if there is a device that would make that job easier. There are devices for pitting olives and cherries right? Does something like that exist for plums? It might be worth having something like that if you had a lot of fruit to deal with all at once.


 
Brenda Groth
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maybe one of you inventive types could invent something and become the next jabillionaire
 
Jean Lippett
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Location: SW England
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I use one of these kinds of plum stoner. They're pretty easy to buy in Europe, but didn't appear on amazon.com.

I don't know if we have different plum diseases in Britain, but the basic advice given here is to only prune May to July to prevent silverleaf fungal disease from attacking the tree and killing it. At that time the sap will gum over and seal the surface from spore penetration, though its also always recommended to paint any wounds and cut surfaces as soon as they occur.

Plums are usually propagated by budding rather than grafting, I believe, probably again to prevent cut surfaces getting infected.
 
Patrick Mann
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Jean Lippett wrote: its also always recommended to paint any wounds and cut surfaces as soon as they occur.


I have been taught that wound sealer has actually been shown to be detrimental. It seals in moisture and bacteria leading to rot, rather than preventing it.
 
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