Brace your trees and be happy

Newslink - - FEATURES - Jane Wrig­glesworth

If 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.

Ap­ples, apri­cots, nec­tarines, pears, peaches, per­sim­mons and plums will all ben­e­fit from some kind of sup­port when over­laden with fruit.

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.

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