[permaculture] spindle cut orchards
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
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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