[permaculture] spindle cut orchards

paul wheaton paul at richsoil.com
Wed Jun 6 11:18:07 EDT 2007

>  Regrettably we can not consult with the tomato to see if it
>  prefers to sprawl along the ground (as mine like to do) or
>  be controlled in a cage / led up a stake / kept short & bushy.

Perhaps the tomato would prefer to say that the "trellis" helps it
stand tall, proud, above the other plants so it doesn't have to fight
for sunlight.

And there are people who talk to the plants.  And they don't seem
nuttier than the folks that cannot talk to the plants.

>  I think there's a conflict between straight lines (considered to
>  be the preference of modern agriculture) and curves (perhaps seen
>  as the domain of the permaculturists).  Straight lines have a bad
>  rap, which is perhaps undeserved -- there are occasions where it
>  is simply much easier to grow things in a straight line, such as
>  the requirement for trellising.  You can extend your edge effect
>  at ground level, if that's what you want to do in that part of your
>  plot.

I'm okay with a straight line once in a while.  Especially when
growing something I haven't tried before.  It helps me differentiate
between what is intentional and not so much.

Trees in rows does seem .... a little ... soulless.

I guess my thinking is that if you are going to grow an acre of apple
trees, and you have, say, 20 acres of land ....  I think I would
rather scatter the trees over the 20 acres, than concentrate them in
one acre.  And in doing so, there may be taller and shorter crops ...
probably shorter.

> If each tree takes
>  10 minutes of pruning once a year, this seems a reasonable payback
>  as far as time & effort goes.


Keep in mind that each tree is pretty small.  And, I would guess that
at this point, each tree would need to have ALL of its new growth cut
off each year.  Maybe this should be 20 minutes per tree.  75 trees
that are taking up the space of 7 normal apple trees.

>  I suspect that your problem is not so much with the dwarfing,
>  pruning, espaliering aspects of the approach, but the lack of
>  biodiversity in the particular orchard that you've seen.

Some of each.  And more.

I'm feeling pain around this from a lot of angles.

The first was "why would somebody do this?" - I think I have my head
wrapped around that.

The lack of biodiversity - I was thinking "what if fireblight hit one
tree?"   And then I thought about the need for tap roots and legumes
and plants that attract beneficial insects and ...  well, you get the
idea ...

The grass.

The big trees capped so short and planted so close together.

How the system appeared to be designed to require a large quantity of
human input each year or else the trees would compete with each other
and then run the risk of getting weak and sick - possibly killing them
all.  Possibly within four years.  (and I've visited a lot of apple
trees / orchards that have had no care for over ten years and are
doing pretty good).

More, more, more ....  I gotta stop going on about it.

> This
>  could easily be countered by engineering a comparable trellising
>  system (the ones I've seen just need stakes, rather than a strained
>  wire style trellis) and doing lots of companion planting in and
>  amongst the trees.  In this case, it's probably best to consider the
>  tree as just a variety of apple, rather than a particular style of
>  farming in and of itself.

Well, I guess in the end I've learned that some permies think it is an
okay system.  And some prefer a more natural style.  I would have to
say I'm of the latter camp.  At least right now.

>  If it helps, in several years I'll be able to show you some photos
>  of how I've integrated such trees into my design.  ;)

Please do!

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