Brace and be happy
f you’re planting new fruit trees this season or your existing ones are getting bigger, you might like to consider providing some kind of support. As limbs get bigger and cropping increases, the weight, and consequently stress, on the tree can be substantial. When trees are laden with fruit, unsupported branches may snap.
At planting time, a stake inserted into the soil on either side of the tree is ideal to secure it as the plant develops its root system. At this stage you can prune your tree to shape as well. For example, if planting an apple tree, your aim is to develop a framework that will support the weight of the apples as they grow. A central leader is often used for apples. The tree is trimmed into a Christmas tree shape, with one central leader plus tiers of branches, with the shorter ones at the top and the larger ones at the bottom. Trees with leggy branches and unbalanced growth are more likely to have problems supporting their fruit later on.
However, even with correct pruning, some fruit trees may still need support. There are a couple of easy ways to do this.
A type of wooden support is perhaps the easiest. This could simply be a thick board used to prop up the limbs. Anywhere you see a limb bending excessively, prop a wooden board beneath it. Cut a V shape into one end of the board and position that under the limb. The V will ensure the board doesn’t slip. If it’s a very long limb, it may be beneficial to have one wooden prop in the centre and one on the outer end. If the V cuts into the limb, or damages it, perhaps in high wind as the branch rubs against it, you might like to line it with a small piece of fabric. For extract strength, dig a shallow ridge into the soil to keep the board steady.
Alternatively, you can use fallen or pruned limbs from other trees as props (make sure it’s shaped like a Y) or use plastic or metal piping. At the top end of the pipe, insert a small branch that has a V shape at the top. The V shape will stop the branch from slipping down the pipe and will also aid in holding the limbs in place.
Belt webbing is also useful for propping up limbs. It’s like a belt that can be attached to a heavily loaded branch then to another, much sturdier branch directly above it to hold the weight. You could use an ordinary old belt for this, but make sure it’s a strong one.
It doesn’t have to be an expensive exercise to support your fruit trees. It might even be a more expensive exercise, if the branches of your trees snap.
Prop them: Fruit trees need support.