Advice On How To Support Nectarine Tree Branches Heavy With Fruit

velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)July 16, 2008

I've got a dwarf white nectarine tree that has gone mad with fruit this year. I plan on thinning it a bit, but I can tell the branches will still be too heavy--6 of them are dragging the ground now.

I need to support these branches for the next 2-3 weeks until the fruit is harvest-ready--it's almost there now. Any advice on what to use?

Thanks in advance! :)

Velvet ~:>

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If your nectarines are only 2-3 weeks from harvest, and your branches are dragging on the ground now, you should have thinned some time ago. And thinned enough to keep the branches from dragging. More prime stone fruit branches are broken from overbearing than any other cause.

You can support the branches with 1"x4" boards, notched at one end for the branches, but this arrangement is not perfect if you have to mow around the tree, and the boards do not supply much resistance to winds.

Next season, thin and do not allow matters to reach this point.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 10:27PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Hello, I'm Velvet, and I'm a BAAAAD nectarine mom. :)

*L* Yeah, it's true I didn't get my butt out there and do what needed to be done, but in my defense we've had Godawful 100+ degree weather here in So. California for the last several weeks, plus EVERY last freakin' bit of gunk & ash from the fires going on in northern California are falling here. So going outside was no treat. Also, my husband and I both had surgical procedures done on our knees--mine was last month, his was Monday; which laid us both up. We needed to schedule them for after the school year had ended for our 8 year old daughter. So...*bleah*. Life's been grand. :)

So when I went out and found the tree like this it was a surprise. But hey, bonus pictures, cause I think the way the tree is DOING this is kinda weird! :)

The heaviest part of the tree, the east side--the ONLY side with a problem:

The view of the north side of the tree, the east-facing side is on the left, the west-facing on the right. Note that the RIGHT side of the tree is normal.

Also note the reasons for the cheesy emergency chicken wire tree enclosure, our flock of chickens and our daughter's pet rabbit. They all appreciate not having to strain their little necks to eat all of our freakin' nectarines. The smart-aleck rabbit just laughed and knocked the wire down and invited the chickens in. Tougher measures will be placed tomorrow after a trip to the hardware store. Little stinkers.

The view of the inside of the tree canopy, looking east. This is the worst area. I didn't hose the ash & crud off the tree, sorry.

Now, the chicken run on the right is new, we built it at the beginning of the year. At that time I did some VERY minor trimming of the nectarine tree branches over there (cut off 2 dead branches), I didn't think it would affect the tree at all, but...

So there ya go. You really can't tell by the pics, but the fruit distribution is even throughout the tree--there is not more fruit on the east side than the others. Only about 6 lowest branches on the east side are dragging, the rest of the tree and the upper branches on the east side are not! It's never done this before, and the tree is about 6 years old. And the tree isn't lopsided, as it appears in the pics. With the branches supported, it looks normal.

I actually thought about a month ago that we wouldn't have ANY fruit--we had freakish, heavy-duty wind storms for about a week. Our weather this year has been all over the place--unseasonable cold spells, hot spells, tornado warnings (!), you name it. I thought that might account for part of this. Also, the east side of the tree is the lee side, prevailing winds-wise.

Strange...thoughts? Anyone else having weird fruit sets?

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 12:04AM
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Yeah, you definitely need to get some 2 x 4's under those branches pronto! My neighbor's apricot tree last year was just as loaded, and one day--crack!!!!--one huge branch was on the lawn! So sad!
Or you could train the chickens to stand on each other's backs and hold the branches up!

Carla in Sac

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 1:15AM
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Truly, you and the rabbit have crossed the line. 30 lashes with a wet nectarine skin for you, and I don't know how you would discipline a rabbit. But enough of crime and punishment, let's turn to the tree.

That amazing thing you have there looks like a giant nectarine bush. Have you thought about using a pruning saw to remove some of the branches, particularly those that are close to the ground, but also some in the center of the tree? You might end up with fewer nectarines by actual count, but they might be larger, and the tree would be better able to support them. Another objective of your pruning would be to balance out the weight of the tree.

The other surprising thing is that such a healthy specimen is growing out of soil that looks for all the world like concrete. Of course, it can't be, but that's what it looks like. This could only happen in California. Wildfires, floods and all, CA is still the easiest place to grow fruit in the country, if you have the water when you need it. If I tried growing a nectarine in soil like that in Virginia, not only would it not grow, if it did all the nectarines would have brown rot.

Those are some handsome chickens you have there. In my orchard, they are little ducks, but it's the same principle. Hope all four of the knees are healing well.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 1:24AM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

*L* Thanks, guys! :)

I was wondering if there was some snazzy new-fangled way to prop up the branches, but I guess old school is best.

Yeah, the soil is packed earth thanks to...wait for it...the chickens, of course. :( No surprise there. It used to be a nice lawn under there. The inside of the tree is actually quite open, although it's hard to tell in the pics.

But soon...ah, soon...white nectarine jam!

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 6:26AM
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Don't touch that tree! Jellyman and I sometimes disagree, and this is one of those times! Your tree has pretty good form to my eye. Nice and low to facilitate picking and netting. Thinning fruit is just one more labor input, necessary at times, but avoidable. More smaller fruits reduces your risk of loss from birds- any pecked fruit is a smaller percentage of the total crop. Taller trees facilitate driving tractors through with discs or mowers and allow better airflow for disease prevention in the humid East.

Since your tree is so low it will be super easy to prop up branches. Prop with one or two cardboard boxes. Take any two sticks of wood (last winter's prunings for example) about 3-4 feet long, hold them together and wrap some twine or wire (rebar tie wire is a workshop must have) around about 6" from the end, then spread and prop (push in ground a little and tie to tree with plastic plant tape.) Five gallon buckets also work. Put a tricycle under there, whatever! It'll only be there for several weeks. Yes, I am a shameless hack. Sorry Jellyman, just a diversity of opinion.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 4:54PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Thanks! Mainly I was wondering if there was some modern way of branch-propping that would be different from when I was a kid--I grew up on a small ranch here in southern California, and we had a small orchard of stone fruit trees, about 32 or them. Apricot, several types of peach, nectarine & plum. So I've been picking & canning since I was old enough to join in. *L*

I am going to thin out SOME of the fruit--the obvious rejects, damaged, etc. This years' crop is funny, since last year we had a miserable crop--not enough to make jam with due to crummy weather. It's like it's trying to make up for it this year! :) The tree really does have a nice form, it just doesn't LOOK like it in the pics due to the 6 branches that are drooping. When I prop them Up I'll see if I can get better pics.

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 9:05PM
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Velvet- I was wondering how a novice could have trained such an attractive tree. As in most things, experience makes the differnce. Forgot to mention used transit and camera tripods from garage sales and thrift stores. Also used ski poles, available for free around here.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2008 at 3:03PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I know how you train a tree like that, total neglect. In CA anything will bear fruit. If it doesn't break down, I guess that's OK. But each yr the tree gets bigger because it is never pruned back. Peaches and nectarines need pruning.

My next door neighbor just lost his best peach. The two biggest branches split right down the middle. Didn't break over, the branches opened up in the middle, about 6 inch diameter. And the fruit hadn't even reached swell stage. She was trying to prop and the wind kept blowing the props out. Fruit will still double in weight by maturity.

To each his own!!

The Fruitnut

    Bookmark   July 18, 2008 at 7:19PM
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WOw! That's a dwarf necatrine? I have one that's two years old, but it's barely two feet high. It does have awesome leaves, and it's unique here in Utah. There are only 6 nectarines growing on it though.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2008 at 2:20AM
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I live in Orange County and my two Nectarine trees have broken branches from the weight of the fruit too. But my biggest problem is Green June Bugs, which ruined more than half the fruit on my Silver Queen Nectarine. The tree looks strange. with dozens of pits hanging from the branches I killed about a hundred of them using the bucket of soapy water method or else by swatting them with a badminton racquet and then stepping on them, but they just kept coming and invited their friends to a combo sex orgy/feast on the fruit. Now they are getting ready to start in on my Goldmine Nectarine which is getting ready to ripen its fruit. I don't want to spray because I want to keep the fruit organic. Does anyone else have a problem with June Bugs, and any luck with controlling them?

    Bookmark   July 19, 2008 at 1:43PM
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Fruitnut- good to hear from you. Sure, this tree could be cleaned up a bit, but it's essential form is excellent, particularly for Velvet and her husband, who both had knee operations recently. No risk of falling off a ladder with this tree. What's worse, a broken limb on a tree or a human? Depends on your valueset I suppose. As you say, to each his own. Peace, Fruithack.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2008 at 5:20PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Geez, fruitnut, don't get yer knickers in a twist there. :)

The tree is not neglected, it's just having a strange year. Here's the tree two years ago, it's the naked one on the right:

And last year:

So you see, I have no evil plot directed at nectarines. :) It still has this shape, don't worry. It just looks odd in the current photos.

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   July 19, 2008 at 6:46PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Hey californian, get some chickens to add to the old tennis racquet technique. Pretty soon the chickens will learn to field them as you swat them out of the air. :)

My 8 year old daughter has a great time catching June Bugs and feeding them to the chickens. *L*

And yeah, this tree is a dwarf Snow Queen white nectarine. Our problem here is no honey bees and only a few wasps, so I've found that I have to take a dry childs' watercolor set paintbrush and pollinate the tree by hand in order to get fruit. :(

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   July 19, 2008 at 6:54PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Well my estimate was off by a bit, I got this huge bowlful of nectarines just now!

Only found one June Bug, which my chickens were MORE than happy to see. Checking the rest of the fruit, I figure I'll be canning this coming weekend or in about a 10-12 days, max. This collanderful is only a very small amount of the fruit on the tree.

I don't know how anyone else treat their trees, but I never spray mine with anything, ever (I don't do anything with my Blood Orange tree, either). We have mostly backyard citrus trees in our neighborhood, which I'm sure cuts down on the overall June Bug population, and nothing else seems to be interested in the nectarine tree.

Nothing beats the taste of fresh produce from your own yard, these taste marvy. :)

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   July 20, 2008 at 11:03PM
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That's a picture from last year??? While I can easily believe it's the same tree--uh, Velvet, I think somebody stole your lawn!!!

And I thought it would be cool to have some chickens! Maaaybe not!

Carla in Sac

Yummy looking bowlful, BTW. :)

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 12:16AM
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I'm so jealous! I know my trees are immature, but WOW! I love to see that big bowl of fruit - and it's even better that you grew it yourself! I've never heard of pollinating your own trees with a paintbrush. What time of year do you do it? I get a ton of bees when my creeping thyme flowers, but that's late spring - do you think that's too late? I am so impressed with you and your fruit trees and chickens in your backyard! I'm trying to be more self sufficient like that too - some day!

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 12:58AM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

I started the hand-pollinating thing a few years back when the honeybee crisis first started. Yeah, it feels weird and stupid to go around your tree and DO that, but hey--it works for me. I don't climb the tree and I don't worry about getting every single flower, I only do what I can reach, and I'm only 5' 3". I did it when the tree flowered, around Easter:

^^^There are TWO Easter eggs in this picture. :)

Our local kids call our yard a 'farm' just because of two fruit trees and a flock of chickens. :( Poor suburban kids.

And yeah--the grass got nibbled to death. It came down to having to decide if we wanted to keep the lawn or the can see the choice we made. I hate the bare dirt, but now that the new chicken run is built maybe we can plant grass again and have it survive--!

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 4:53AM
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Beautiful blossoms! Thanks for sharing.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2008 at 1:53AM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

So...I'll bet y'all are saying to yourselves, "Hey, I wonder what 35 pounds of nectarines looks like?"

Wonder no more:

^^That's a little less than 1/3 of the total amount of fruit on the tree, so we've got us some pickin' to do.

After a solid day of cutting, pitting & chopping yesterday, it got processed today and became this:

White nectarine jam, yay! I took this pic midway through the canning, tomorrow and Sunday will be spent getting the cut fruit into jars as well.

I'm tired...! :)

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   July 26, 2008 at 1:45AM
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Wow, reading all these messages has been most entertaining! I was *advising* a friend on her peach tree today. I helped her prune it this past winter and she thinned out the fruits, but the branches are still dragging on the ground. We removed some more fruit and talked about supports today, but I'm going to send her this link so she gets to see what the experts are recommending (ski poles??? Tricycles??? 30 lashes with a wet nectarine skin???).

And if this is what you do with bad knees, Velvet, you must be unstoppable when they're healed!

Virginia in Virginia

    Bookmark   July 26, 2008 at 10:31PM
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Californian: planted Snow Queen this year and REALLY looking forward to it. Last few days FIRST TIME ever seeing FIG BEETLES which I really adore! Neighbor has junky huge peach tree hanging over my fence - we pick up all lousy peaches and get onto compost immediately. Today I was cutting down the overhanging branches and pulling the fruit and found no fig beetles at work nor telltale damage but peaches has to be why they're here because they ain't eating my figs. Try trapping them with sacrificial fruit as my compost pile seems to be, or putting out soda bottle funnel traps with nasty sweet water if you aren't ready for mechanical harvest by one animal or another. It's also possible the beetles are as repulsed by my baby-cooing at them as rattlesnakes appear to be and are fleeing in disgust - so you might want to try that.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 8:46PM
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