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tree training  RSS feed

 
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The Permaculture Orchard DVD talks about using wire to train fruit tree brances to bend down and stay angled down close to trunk and ground.  My husband, whom is no expert in fruit tree care and nor am I,  says this is the first he has heard of it and that he has never seen this in orchards or anywhere around here (Idaho).  He wonders why more people aren't doing it if it is the better way I guess.  Stefan on the DVD mentions that 2 French researchers he talked to recommended it.  I told him I would research and ask more about whether this method is truly better than just pruning and if any of you does this.

Thanks,
Mudwelly Girl 
 
gardener
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I use wire on bonsai, which is the purposeful extreme dwarfing and training a tree to be a growing work of art.

Doing espalier I will use a wrap wire to pull the branch along the place it is supposed to be. And adjust it frequently as it needs.

Tieing off stuff to a concrete block to pull it down, I use something less likely to cut the branch/bark.
 
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Location: Stone Garden Farm Richfield Twp., Ohio
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If you use wire, you need to be well organized and thoughtful. You need to remember to be sure to remove it/adjust it every so often. If you wrap wire or plastic string around a branch or trunk and the tree grows around it, it could kill the branch or tree. I (often being far too busy and preoccupied with too many things to do) prefer to use hay baling twine that will eventually rot and fall away. Then I don't hurt my trees and bushes.
 
Deb Rebel
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Make sure you're getting JUTE twine as the plastic will never rot.

That is the secret to the bonsai as well, having to readjust the wires frequently.
 
pollinator
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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It makes a lot of sense.  I've trained many of my fruit trees this way.  I use a poly cord instead of wire, and tie the branches to bricks and concrete blocks. 

When you think how much energy a tree uses to grow that branch, to lop it off because it's not in the right place is a tremendous waste.  I will regularly pull a branch 50, 60, 70 degrees or more to put it in the place where I want it to grow.  It doesn't hurt the tree or the branch and within a year or so, you can remove the rope and the branch stays put.

Our orchard has about 50 fruit trees, and I use this technique with apples, stone fruits, pears, almonds, mango, guava and a few others. I don't do it with citrus, avocados, figs . . . you don't really prune those anyway . . . you just kind of shape them from time to time.  I have four fruit trees that border the brick patio next to my swimming pool—an apricot, a persimmon, a cherimoya and a pomegranate.  They are on the east side of the pool, which means that the afternoon sunlight bounces off the pool and hits the west side of the trees.  As a result, they grow twice as fast on that side (the west side) as they do on the non-pool side.  I also think that the micro climate of warm bricks in the evening cause the branches that lean over the top of them to continue to grow late into the evening when the branches on the east side have gone to sleep.  The branches on the west grow twice as fast, they lean toward the pool, and the foliage is much much thicker on that side of the tree.  So I've regularly tied a rope to the tree to continue to pull the main leader vertical (rather than leaning toward the pool) and I tie ropes to the branches on the side (north and south sides of the tree) to yank them back from turning toward the pool.  Its a lot of work, but it keeps the trees balanced and growing straight.  It also eliminates about half the pruning that I'd have to do on the west side of those trees.  Hopefully, once the trees are mature and not getting any taller, I won't have to do this so much.  For my plum and pluot trees, I've pretty much taken all the ropes off --- the structure looks fantastic.

I don't use wire as it could cut into the cambium layer of the branches and it doesn't feel right.  Just my preference.

I use a piece of cloth to loop around the branch, and then I tie the rope to the cloth.  That way the rope doesn't hurt the bark or make an indent on the branch if it gets too tight. 

Be careful not to pull directly down on a branch that has a narrow crotch against the main trunk of the tree.  You'll split it right off.  I've done this more than once.  Once a branch is a couple of years old, it's tough to get them to go the direction you want it to go.  Best to do it on one year-old wood.

Best of luck.
 
pollinator
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It's actually quite amazing what you can train a tree to do https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tree_shaping

David
 
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I tie twine to a clothespin. I attach the clothespin to the branch. I tie the other end of the twine to my 6' diameter wire tree cages (you could tie to a brick or a tent stake in the ground if you don't tree cages).

I like this method bc it is easy to attach, remove and adjust the clothespin from the branch. And it's cheap and very easy to install.
 
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I believe Stefan does this in order to make his trees more productive. More sunlight gets to the interior when the branches grow at a 45 degree angle. More fruiting wood appears on a branch that is less vertical.

On my very young trees I have filled plastic bottle with water and tied them to branches that I want to be less vertical, using some soft twine.  The amount of water in the bottle will determine how much the branch will bend.
 
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Beth Mouse wrote:The Permaculture Orchard DVD talks about using wire to train fruit tree brances to bend down and stay angled down close to trunk and ground.  My husband, whom is no expert in fruit tree care and nor am I,  says this is the first he has heard of it and that he has never seen this in orchards or anywhere around here (Idaho).  He wonders why more people aren't doing it if it is the better way I guess.  Stefan on the DVD mentions that 2 French researchers he talked to recommended it.  I told him I would research and ask more about whether this method is truly better than just pruning and if any of you does this.

Thanks,
Mudwelly Girl 



The most likely reason we don't see a lot of Bonsai techniques or even the French techniques is because of the time consumption it demands especially in a working commercial orchard.
For full size trees you need several sizes of wire (copper wire is the best since you can anneal it to make it soft over and over) so if you start thinking about the costs of #2 thru #00 copper wire, you can see why they don't particularly use the technique.

Using ropes to pull a branch or branches into shape is great too but you need anchors and should you need to get to the trunk area, you might find it a challenge if there are a lot of branches being adjusted at the same time.

I use both copper wires and padded ropes to adjust branches when needed, if it is not a main branch I usually prune the crossing branch that is the youngest.

I've been making Bonsai since 1968, it is super fun to create a miniature of a huge tree and have it in a complementary container that really shows off the tree as a whole.
I even have some growing over rocks. My favorites are the natural Bonsai I have found out in nature and brought home.
In our heat and high humidity, I have to use timed watering during the week days to be sure they don't dry out completely and expire on me.

Redhawk
 
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Tree training has many forms and espalier is just one.  You don't hear about it as much because most people have lost the culture of caring for fruit trees, which is a tragedy.  I use some of the techniques that Bryant talked about, ropes and training for an even shaped, open, and optimally angled tree.
John S
PDX OR
 
Beth Mouse
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Thank you so much for all the replies.  We are still waiting to talk to our county extension specialist about the wires on the fruit trees and I will let you know their input as well.  Sounds like we should give it a try on at least a few fruit trees.  We have 15 trees. 

Thanks so much!
 
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Hi everybody, i am french. and i am pretty shure than The 2 french his talking about in the dvd are Claude and lydia bourguinion, a french couple, expert in soil and organic agriculture, they did  créate their own laboratory in 1990 after didn't like the gouvernement idea about agriculture management. . I don't think they do anything in english, but they publish 3 book in french. the last one just came about substainable agriculture.

here their website :   http://www.lams-21.com/
 
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Location: willamette valley, oregon
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I had the same question after watching the DVD, wondering if training as is described in the DVD is a good approach for harvest results, and taking less time.   I read through replies and seems like most are talking about what to use to train the tree (wire vs rope etc).  Ignoring the material used to train the branches - does anyone have feedback on the shape that the DVD described?  One big quesiton for me is what to do with the top of the tree- bend it over too?  thanks - I tried to research the french authors but I don't speak french
 
Posts: 17
Location: Taos, New Mexico at 7000 ft. - Zone 5
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I'm soooo psyched that this topic has come up. My first pic shows massive vegetative growth (upwards branches that do not produce fruiting buds) in 3-4 year-old trees. Our various fruit trees have been happy and growing, but not producing much fruit. My initial reading about growing fruit said to avoid pruning in summer due to potential for disease. As a result half the branches looked like Manhattan! Pruning bulletins posted by land grant universities (including Cornell) made clear that this is all about hormones and that the best angle for a branch to produce fruiting buds was between 60 degrees from vertical to horizontal (ie, horizontal or slightly reaching for the sky). These would also produce stronger branches that wouldn't break under fruit load. But how to keep them growing that way?! I had watched The Permaculture Orchard: Beyond Organic but I was skeptical due to the other resources that corroborated each other, but not The Quebec method.

After 4 years of ridonculous upward growth, I was desperate. I emailed Stefan's farm and asked for the reference to his French mentors. The busy farm was kind and sent me the info. I expected a research paper or two, but instead was referred to a tome of a book for pros:  Growing Fruit Trees: Novel concepts and practices for successful care and management, edited by Lespinasse and Leterme, published by Norton. Finally I had the juice to try Stefan's method. The premise is simple:  Slow down the growth of your tree with fruit (or mimicking fruit) instead of pruning (which just spurs the tree to grow even more). There's a mind-blowing pic of an apple tree that's never been pruned and the main scaffold branches droop downwards! So, I read the chapters on all the tree types we have (apple, apricot, peach, pear, plum, almond, cherry) and learned that apple and cherry absolutely want drooping branches to maximize production, whereas the rest prefer the high-angle (nearly but not quite horizontal) that I mentioned earlier. One of the other reasons I really need to slow my trees down is that we only have one acre, we wanted to produce lots of fruit, have rich soil, and so I planted our orchard densely, very very densely..., so that mature 15 ft diameter trees would have touching crowns. Well, crap, these are 5 year old trees and some are already 10-12 feet in diameter! Amateur mistake, oh well. Because I'm a crazy risk-taker, I "put all my eggs in one basket" and trained most of our trees this spring with this method. I have NO PROOF this will work. Talk to me in April and I'll tell you how many flowers I have per tree. :-]

How I do it:  I agree with someone earlier in the thread who said that training trees this way is very time consuming. I put in 2 hours per tree in late-winter early spring, but I'm much better at it now. Similar to someone else, I tie branches to a log or heavy branch on the ground. One New Mexico issue necessitates this: Wind. Stefan's method of using a J-shaped wire would gouge my tree branches within two days of wind and April is our windiest month. So... I use old cotton t-shirts and rip off a 1 inch strip to loop around the branch at the point to be pulled down. To avoid breaking a branch flapping in the creator's blessed wind, I use a short log/branch on the ground rather than a brick. If the wind gets too intense, a well-chosen log (not too heavy, not too light) might lift up temporarily to relieve stress on the branch, in theory. With twine, I tie a clove hitch around the log and extend up towards the cotton loop and tie a modified trucker's hitch. This makes it easy to adjust the height of the training rope. Yes, I've had to shift some cotton loops as new growth shifts the location of needed pull. As spring growth took off, I added using clothespins. Then, when I needed something heavier than 3 clothespins but less work than a dedicated log and string, I started tying a classroom-glue-stick-sized branch of chokecherry or oak to a clothespin to act like a... fruit! We are blessed with dense hardwoods that had to be cut for our home and leach field and the scraps are awesome for this.

Finally, the French book absolutely validates summer pruning of upwards vegetative growth, some garden books call them watersprouts. So I've been out pruning this summer as well. The book costs $50, but is written by fruit-specific professionals with extraordinary detail. I have science degrees and I still skimmed certain sections. The photos and diagrams are outstanding. Now, I can't imagine using this method on a commercial scale in my ecosystem, but who knows... if the yield really increases because more fruiting buds are produced instead of vegetative branches that get pruned anyway, maybe the effort is worth it! Feedback anyone?
IMG_5242.JPG
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typical February 2016 tree with upwards growth
IMG_0119.JPG
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training apple with French method in 2017
 
J Blair
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Location: willamette valley, oregon
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thanks mike for your description of what you are doing. I have a lot of old cotton t-shirts I have been saving -  I knew they would come in handy some day.  Do you plan on doing anything to the top of the trees to keep their height "low"?  I have trees drafted on semi-dwarf rootstock, and I am hoping to keep them at a height that won't require much ladder work, but I am not sure how to handle it (I have ordered the book you mentioned, maybe that will give me the info)
 
Mike Musialowski
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Location: Taos, New Mexico at 7000 ft. - Zone 5
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J Blair wrote:thanks mike for your description of what you are doing. I have a lot of old cotton t-shirts I have been saving -  I knew they would come in handy some day.  Do you plan on doing anything to the top of the trees to keep their height "low"?  I have trees drafted on semi-dwarf rootstock, and I am hoping to keep them at a height that won't require much ladder work, but I am not sure how to handle it (I have ordered the book you mentioned, maybe that will give me the info)



Hi J, Yes, I have the same problem with these guys shooting to the sky despite all being semi-dwarf rootstock. I'm thrilled you're getting the book. On page 45 there's a great diagram that pretty clearly bends the "central leader" down to create a major scaffold branch. The approach I gleaned from the book is: I can cut, or I can slow down the tree by bending branches and preserve the growth that the tree put into those branches and their potential for photosynthesis with its leaves. So I use a heavy log, say 1 1/2 feet long and 5 inches in diameter as an anchor. Then I bend the central leader (yes even 3/4 to 1 inch diameter!) and tie to the log. But don't worry, a new central leader will sprout from the side. But I've just gained a new major scaffold branch which will grow sideways if I keep training it.

I've also been pruning just the apical (top) buds to induce branching. Apical bud hormones suppress branching by competing with other hormones. This is why pruning them induces branching: the branching hormones are no longer inhibited by as many apical hormones. So, in theory, I should get plenty of side branches at the top by the end of the year. Then, in the spring I can choose which ones to keep (good orientation between other branches and significant height from the last "whorls" of branches) and which ones to prune. Of course, you can do that now if the branches already exist.

I hope that helps! Good luck on this journey. - Mike

 
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