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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Use Limb Spreaders on Fruit Trees Now to Increase Production

If you have been to any of my pruning workshops you will know the best production from fruit trees comes from branches growing at 45° angles from horizontal. Several fruit trees such as pears and plums tend to grow more upright than this. Frequently their limbs may be at 60° angles from horizontal.
Upright growth of plum in bloom
Limbs that grow more upright than 45° tend not to flower and fruit as much as limbs growing at lower angles. Limbs growing at angles lower than 45° tend not to grow rapidly but will flower and fruit more readily. Bending branches so that they receive more light and grow at 45° angles will improve fruit production of most fruit trees.
Limb spreaders on peach. Spreading the limbs apart to a 45° angle permits more light to penetrate inside the canopy and improves fruit production in the interior of the tree.
To spread limbs that are less than 3 years old to the correct angle use limb spreaders or string to pull them down to the proper angle. Limbs that are older than this will not bend easily and probably will break. On these younger branches the best time to bend them is when their bark is slipping as they are beginning their growth cycle. That time is now, March, and for the next month or so.
Limb spreaders on a young apple tree.
You can make limb spreaders for older trees with 1x2 inch wood notched at both ends. Make some that are 8 inches, 10 inches, 12 inches and longer for different situations. On very young trees some people have used popsicle sticks, tongue depressors, paint stirring sticks, etc. Some people will put a finishing nail in the crotch of this notch to prevent the limbs spreader from slipping. Other people will use string to tie weights to the branches or stake the string to the ground to hold the branch at a 45° angle.

Now is also a good time to bend branches in a different direction. If you have an empty spot in the canopy of the tree explore the possibility of bending a branch to fill this void. Now is the time to do it.
Finishing nail driven into the crotch of a limb spreader. The head of the nail is removed
You can purchase limb spreaders as well.These will come in various lengths but I think you will have to buy them online.

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