Training Trees

As leaves fall in our orchard, the structure of tree branches starts to emerge from under its leafy coat. Soon the orchard will look like the picture above. We spend a lot of time in the winter, spring, and summer coaxing trees into their optimal form.

Every tree is tied to a metal stake to keep the trunk upright and to prevent the tree from blowing over in storms.

This picture from spring shows a newly planted tree with a plastic bag fastened over part of the trunk. This creates a greenhouse-like condition and encourages branches in that section of trunk to grow, which avoids undesirable bare, branchless sections. We remove the bag after several weeks, when branches have started to grow.

Here’s another trick we use to encourage branches to develop on the tree trunk. The picture shows the trunk of a very young tree. The bud in the picture might develop into a branch, or it might stay dormant. We’ve cut a notch in the bark above the bud. The notch will heal over in time, but meanwhile the cut disrupts the flow of plant hormones in the stem and encourage the bud to develop into a new branch. (The bud “perceives” that the entire trunk above it has been cut off and “thinks” it needs to grow to save the tree.)

Once branches have started to grow, we use twine, wire, and metal limb spreaders like the one shown here to force the branches into a more horizontal position.  Relatively horizontal branches grow less, but produce more fruit.

All of which helps to produce more of these: