[NAFEX] Bending branches to induce early fruiting

Joe Hecksel jhecksel at voyager.net
Sat Apr 2 11:57:10 EST 2005


Hello all:

Most of you are familiar with the technique of bending vertical branches 
to a more horizontal position to induce earlier/more fruiting.  Many 
mechanisms have been proposed (C/N ratio, hormonal changes).  The simple 
fact remains that it is one of the most effective ways to "tip" a tree 
into fruiting mode.  It can also make a young, shy bearer a star because 
you can double the amount of light the canopy harvests.

Pears seem to be the one kind of fruit that most benefits from branch 
spreading.  I am heavily weighted toward pears because they produce 
acceptable fruit with minimal inputs.  Also, I can find many "takers" 
for the fruit when I become overwhelmed.  Try getting rid of 200 pounds 
of persimmons someday.  Tough to do, at least in semi-rural Michigan.

The rub is in the mechanics of bending the branches.
-Twine and tying them down is very effective but slow and tedious
-Propping branches with >----< sticks or <======> sticks scar the bark 
and can/maybe make the tree more vulnerable to fire blight.  This is a 
big deal with pears.
-Tree weights are an option but you have to make your own.

So, there I was filling a hole in the foundation that my wife was sure 
was the source of several recent ROUS sightings.  Being a man who is 
basically lazy by nature, I made sure to mix a vast-over sufficiency of 
mortar.  Being a man of curiosity, I experimented with the extra.

Very good branch-bending weights can be fabricated with mortar mix, foam 
egg cartons and 17 gauge, ungalvanized wire.

14 gauge wire is too stiff.
19 gauge wire is too wimpy
Galvanized wire lasts too long and runs the risk of girdling the branch 
as the branch grows.

Tear the top off of the egg carton and discard. Mix mortar to standard 
"buttery" consistancy.  Fill the bottom of the egg carton with mortar 
mix until it is level with dividers.  Slight overfilling is not a 
problem as they can be easily broken apart.   Smooth top of filled carton.

The wire should be cut to 6"-to-8" (150mm-to-200mm) lengths and have a 
squiggle bent into the end that is to be inserted into the mortar.  A 
squiggle that looks like a hook and then is then bent to be in a plane 
perpendicular to the axis of the wire will stand up on its own and looks 
nice.  Insert a length of wire into mortar of each depression.

Wash hands.  Mortar mix can be very caustic and is always drying.

Allow mortar to harden.

Carry your twelve packs of branch weights to the orchard.  Break apart 
and install on branches to achieve desired branch orientation.  More 
than one weight can be installed on long/heavy branches.  Do not twist 
wires tightly to branch....lest they gridle the branch.

Some people aesthetically oriented people find the weights to be 
unsightly. The weights are less ugly if you peel off the styrofoam egg 
carton.  Also, those people can usually be won over by giving them some 
perfectly ripe pears.  Life is much better when the lady who drives the 
school bus thinks you are both clever and generous rather than 
eccentric.  Your kids will like you better, too.

-Joe




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