Limb Spreaders

galagala(5)February 21, 2010

Sometime ago someone mentioned that they use a dowel with a nail in each end to spread limbs. Is this good for the tree? Wouldn't it create a wound to the tree? It is a fine idea and frugal and one I would like to use. However I would cut 1/2" square wood stock and use nails in either end. Much cheaper---- If you have axcess to a table saw. Also, my trees have been in the ground 1 year April 1st. How much of what fertilizer should I give them? I am in zone 5. Cant wait to get out there and plant some trees, just hope the snow melts in time. Thanks for the imfo, you Guys and Gals are the BEST!!!

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I've made and used those type spreaders. Best ones I ever had were ~0.25 inch copper tubing cut at an angle on each end. They won't hurt the tree. They only stay in place one year and wound heals the next.

Limb spreaders don't work here because of high winds. I prefer tying off to ground.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 9:22AM
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alan haigh

Nails and wood can't be blown out of a tree IMO if there is decent tension on the spreader and you have sharp enough nails that have been pressed into the wood. Tying is inferior for obtaining the desired crotch angle.

Yes it wounds the tree, but so does pruning and in my area I've never seen a wound from spreaders that didn't close as soon as the spreader is removed (hundreds of times).

Pears and apples in particular are often wounded to
manipulate the tree- scoring being a very interesting technique I've been reading about today. Another subject, but it was an article about ringing (using a pruning saw to cut a thin circle around the trunk, through the bark to the wood) to subdue vigorous top growth. I've long known about doing this at the base of a tree to coax a reluctant fruiter into production but this article was about ringing 4 or 5 feet from the top to deinvigorate the top third of the tree and maintain the Christmas tree shape without having to prune excessively. Scoring should be done a week or 2 after bloom.

If nothing else this should calm your fears about a couple of nail wounds. Peaches are the only tree I'd be reluctant to use spreaders for.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 2:36PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

You can get just as good a crotch with tying as with a spreader. It just has to be tied at the right spot, not too high-not too low, and at the right time. In fact you can get a wider angle. Because with a spreader you have to be able to open the angle then close it back up and press the nails into the wood to get them to hold.

Spreaders don't hold in our wind especially when the limbs are small. Small limbs are the right time to get the widest angle. If you wait until the limb is stout enough to hold in high wind, it is past being limber enough to spread a wide crotch.

Tying is far superior if you not only want to spread the crotch but you want to move the limb to fill in a hole in the canopy.

I tie down to the type of metal pins that are used to hold down weed barrier. Here's how I do it. Tie off to the pin with a length of cotton string or twine. Then tie a small loop in the string short of the limb position desired. Now take the loose end around the limb and tie off to the loop. This keeps from girdling the limb.

Cotton string will last years but is only need one year. After a year the limb will be frozen in it's new position.

This method will hold up in our frequent 50-70 mph winds.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 3:09PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

My experience agrees with Harvestman. For limb spreading, I much prefer spreaders. Repositioning limbs (horizontally) is a different story and require different techniques. For spreading, I use Treeform V spreaders, like those shown in the link below.

Galagala, you asked about how much fertilizer to use...what did your soil test say?

Here is a link that might be useful: Treeform V Spreaders

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 3:31PM
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alan haigh

As you know Brandon, I love those Treeforms in most situations as well. Of course I use wood and nails when I have what Fruitnut considers to be a too rigid situation. I've spread up to 4" diameter branches when I've needed to by using the hinge technique.

Fruitnut you have no idea how much shaping and spreading I do- it is constant and I use string, tape(to lower branches), weights (rarely but when necessary) and I've had to learn a lot of tricks. I am called on to care for trees that have been misguided, unguided, clipped like poodles, shaped like lollipops, beheaded and than neglected for decades, etc., etc. Hundreds and hundreds of trees from yearling to 150 year old apples with up to a 70' spread.

The reason commercial growers tend to use rigid spreaders for free standing trees (I've never seen string in a commercial orchard)is simply that it is the most efficient way to geterdone. If you make string work, that's great, and I agree it can be done, but if you consider it across the board superior to rigid spreaders, you are in a minority. Nothing wrong with that either.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 8:27PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


Thanks for a civil answer. I'm sure you meet lots of situations I don't. I'm only trying to spread stuff up to about 1/2 maybe 3/4 inches. In other words when it should be done. Don't have anything with 4 inch branches. And if I did I wouldn't be spreading it.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 8:55PM
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Thanks for the replys. Tying branches with string is not an option! I have150 trees with maybe 5 branches each that need a new direction, so, you see what I mean. I need to be frugal which is why I will go with the wood and nail solution. I didn't realize that the Treeform spreaders had a point on the end as well. I have made up 300 spreaders of my own design, much cheaper than using dowels. I cut 1/2" pieces of wood and put a nail in each end and then cut off the head of the nail. I made 4" and 8", but you can make them any size you want.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2010 at 5:54AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I'd like to make a point of clarification that might be helpful to a few readers. When I say spreaders won't stay in my trees I'm talking mostly about young actively growing wood and mostly 1/2 inch and smaller. This wood isn't very strong and won't hold a spreader well. It also often has easily slipping bark that can be seriously stripped off by a spreader. It is also at a stage of growth where crotch angles can be influenced to a large degree.

On large stiff wood it would take ropes and posts to move the limb. Spreaders will work here. But the branch is past moving the crotch by much.

On really small new shoots there are other techniques I haven't used much like clothes pins to open and hold crotches.

Others may disagree or have other techniques.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2010 at 8:41AM
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alan haigh

Frutinut, because you only manage trees you're right on top of you don't probably need to know the trick to spreading branches that have become too rigid. Here it is anyway- you make several cuts about an inch apart on the side of the branch where it's being spread. You cut with a sharp pruning saw about 1/3 through the branch creating a nice hinge. The number of cuts will depend on when the branch bends easily enough for you and the cuts should start very close to the trunk- so you do spread the crotch.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2010 at 5:09PM
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