Bending Fruit Tree Branches - when and how?

arugula(4/5 Wisconsin)February 16, 2012

Hi all,

I'm working with a 3 year old Baldwin apple tree, have pruned off the excess and wayward growth, and now would like to do some gentle bending of a few of the branches with less than ideal angles.

My questions:

1) At what point in the year is it safe to begin the bending? Right now it's a 30F day, but it may freeze at night. Is it better to wait until any chance of freezing has passed?

2) How do you do your branch bending? Can I do it successfully by hand over time?

I have some concerns about using objects as hanging weights on the branches after observing that all my raspberries that I "manipulated" by bending/shaping with wire guides were much more vulnerable to disease and insects than the ones I let choose their own path. Accordingly, my instinct is to bend the apple branches very gingerly and only by hand. I'm an organic gardener, so prevention is key.

Thanks in advance for your ideas!

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

arugula:

Rest assured that training will not affect disease or insects unless you block light or air. Cold isn't an issue either. You can train now but the branches won't "take" in their new position until they grow new tissues in the shape you set.

When training limbs down I tie off to a stake or weight resting on the ground. Hanging weights aren't stable and can break a limb. By fall the limbs will be set in their new position.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 10:10AM
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arugula(4/5 Wisconsin)

Thanks for your thoughts, fruitnut! I like your bending ideas.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 12:27PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

Can train anytime, but spring would probably make most sense, and then maybe adjust things as the growing season goes by.

I like to use tent stakes and sisal or some other type of twine and just tie them down. You can usually get quite a few branches tied to each tent stake. You can make your own stakes with scrap pieces of lumber.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 12:52PM
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oldryder

I visited a large comm orchard last fall and noticed he used baggies with sand in them as weights. He made a "dumbell" shape and tied it onto the branches. looked cheap and simple.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 1:05PM
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