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An orchard of spiral staircases: human trees, not tractor trees  RSS feed

 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Location: Oakland, CA
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I'm open to correction on this, it is only my own reading of The Natural Way of Farming.

As I understand it, Masanobu Fukuoka made a habit of intervening early on, and as subtly as possible, to guide his trees into a more natural shape.

The book suggests that an orchard keeper should literally "nip it in the bud" whenever a tree begins to send out branches in a confused way, which unfortunately always happens when a branch becomes a cutting and then a grafted trunk of a tree. Fortunately, the more natural a tree's shape becomes over the course of its life, the more its natural responses will tend toward appropriate ones for its current situation: a cloned fruit tree can be guided into a shape so similar to its seedling cousins, that very few buds will develop where they do not make sense.

One property of the natural form inherent in most fruit trees, is that the lowest branches are near enough to the ground to be stepped on, and branches continue at regular intervals in an opposite or spiral pattern. As the tree becomes tall enough to produce fruit beyond one's reach, the lower branches are strong enough near the trunk to support a person's weight, and the author reports that natural arrangements of branches make for very easy climbing, akin to a spiral staircase (or, for opposite branches, a ladder).

To most people's mind, a completely un-pruned tree would be thick with thorny twigs all throughout, and not nearly open enough toward the trunk to admit a person. But if the tree maintains a full canopy of leaves throughout its development, conditions will not favor the growth of buds near the trunk, except to add then next branch at the top of the spiral. And the author was not opposed to snipping twigs: his opposition to pruning was focused on interventions that would require a saw, as stated many places in the text. Breaking away an unfavorably-placed bud requires no tools at all.

Human-sized openings among branches can work with a tree's natural responses, but tractor-sized ones apparently cannot, so that major interventions are necessary on an ongoing basis for mechanized orchards. Similarly, the author reports that development just after grafting usually sets a tree on a high-maintenance path, unless that development is managed wisely.
 
paul wheaton
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Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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that would describe my apple trees that grew from seeds..however, we did have to remove a few of the lower branches of one as our housefire required the drainfield to go under one side of it..so the bottom branches were in the way..they are now barely head high..it still does however have some thorney stubbly areas inside which does make climbing it difficult..

our previous seed grown apple and pear trees were all climbable..however and that is how the fruit was harvested..those were lost with our housefire..unfortunately.



this was taken last winter, we also have to prune branches that scrape on our woodshed roof..but otherwise this tree was a seedling tree and has been left unpruned..you can see the natural shape..other than those few branches pruned at the very bottom and against the shed roof.
 
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