[permaculture] spindle cut orchards

jedd jedd at progsoc.org
Sat Jun 2 00:39:56 EDT 2007

On Sat, 2 Jun 2007, paul wheaton wrote:
> Apparently, a lot of the apple industry is moving in this direction.

 This was my belief, also, but I heard a variation on same, and I've
 only seen a somewhat modified version of the orchard you describe.

> Essentially, this stuff looks like apple hedges grown north/south so
> that the sun can get on all the leaves.  The branches are kept short -
> 2.5 feet long in the rows, 4 feet long between the rows, but only at
> the bottom.  The trees are prevented from getting taller than ten
> feet.  I think they are shooting for a hedge that is has a sort of
> christmas tree shape.  But not cones - more like the whole hedge is
> wide at the bottom and narrow at the top, with a 12 inch gap between
> trees.

 You don't say what spacing the trees were at .. ?

 The mini-orchard I saw a year or so ago was a trial environment for
 the owner - he had about 100 trees in two rows, with slightly
 different approaches in each row.  One was espaliered low - I think
 on two wires, probably about 60cm and 100cm, high density
 planting - maybe 1.5 metre spacing - with the branches coming off
 in one direction only.  Think of a lot of inverted L shapes.  Actually
 this is pretty close to one of the multitude of popular grape growing

 The other row was wired, but only to keep the trees upright as
 they weren't allowed to put out laterals (of any significance).
 He'd planted the trees at 1 metre spacing, but was telling me that
 he would plant the next lot in between - yes, bringing it down
 to 50cm spacings.

 Fruit grew effectively along the trunk (on very short spurs),
 and the numbers coming out of other trial plots indicated that
 the productivity (per unit of land) was significantly higher with
 this approach.  I don't expect this was using anything like an organic
 method, but the guy I was speaking to was certainly aligned with
 the light side of the force and seemed to be heading towards as
 natural an approach as possible.

 The dwarfing rootstocks he was using, and I can't recall which row
 was using which type, were M9 and M27.  I haven't been able to hunt
 them down in NSW.AU yet, but haven't put a lot of effort into it.

 Consider the benefits from a production point of view alone:
 pruning is very easy - no ladders, higher ratio of pruning to walking
      between plants, less experience required (anything over 10cm gets
      snipped) compared to your vase / leader / pyramid shape
 harvesting is painfully simple - all the fruit is obvious, easy to
      find, easy to assess, easy to retrieve, easy to transfer to
 irrigation is probably much easier (speculative)
 fertilising is probably much easier (ditto)
 time to establish is much lower (almost definitely) and certainly time
      to maturity (max harvest) is very favourable to classic orchards,
      plus of course the stated increase in total harvestable fruit

 On a smaller scale, I see advantages for pest control, specifically
 the feasibility of netting an entire row (if you plan it right) just
 before it becomes attractive to birds, then moving the netting on
 to the next row, etc.  Do-able with larger trees, but so much easier
 with something human-height and without lots of fast-growing
 branches getting tangled in your net.

 What I want to do is set up a few rows of this style of planting
 and completely net the area with shadecloth.  This improves the
 productivity by preventing damage by birds, and reduces (or maybe
 eradicates) coddling moth and similar pests.

 I'd go for comfrey between each tree, rather than alfalfa, but
 either/or I guess.  Anything with a less competitive root system
 than the apple tree's dwarfing root stock, I guess, would work.

 I'm not sure why you think that this approach is scary and/or
 implies a lack of diversity.  Do you advocate espalier at all?

 Diversity can be introduced around and incorporating the benefits
 of this approach, I think.  There will always be tradeoffs between
 various imperatives -- reducing land use, reducing waste & impact
 of pests, reduction of insecticide usage, and so on.

 Your hypothetical proposal of killing off 90% of the trees wouldn't
 work, I suspect, as they're not dwarfed by their proximity but by
 their root stock.  You'd have to replace them, and you'd be looking
 at 7-10 years before larger trees started producing useful amounts
 of fruit, and even then you'd never match the productivity (or so
 it seems) of this method.


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