At this time of year, if fruit-set has been good and a tree isn’t in an ‘off’ year of a biennial cycle, even well-thinned trees can still be struggling to support the weight of all the fruit ripening on their branches. My Twitter-buddy Barry came across a tree in his orchard that provides an extreme example of what can happen if there’s too much weight on a branch system that’s not quite strong enough to support it:
There was a similar problem – albeit on a much smaller and thankfully not so drastic scale – on the Plot #79 orchard last week. Apple ‘Grandpa Buxton’, which to-date hadn’t produced much in the way of fruit at all, has clearly decided to really go for it this year and, even post-thinning, is covered in steadily developing, already well-sized cooking apples.
Of course, the stake that was supporting this M9 / M27 rootstock tree had rotted at the base last winter, and I’d made a mental note to replace it, but filed the mental note away somewhere and hadn’t done the job yet. As a result, Grandpa Buxton had developed a bit of an old man’s stoop, with the central leader now becoming more of a central leaner:
Handily, I did have a very solid new tree stake ready to go and, with the help of one of my plot-mates to gently-but-firmly push the trunk back up towards vertical, I was able to get a few rubber tree-bands around Grandpa Buxton and return the tree to a less horizontally-inclined position, with the leader restored to upright:
I also re-thinned the fruit a fair bit by taking off a couple of dozen of the smaller or less well-developed apples (and we lost a few more in the straightening process) which will hopefully leave enough behind to harvest later in the year.
How about you? Have you had problems with branches, or whole trees, bending or breaking under the weight of their own fruit? Do you prefer to stake them, prop them, or just let nature and gravity take their course and then deal with the outcome? Do let me know, via the comments.