How tree training can help you pick and assess fruit

24 Oct 2013 09.39 am by Renny Wijeyamohan

Training your fruit trees to grow into a particular shape can conserve space, increase light penetration, discourage disease and promote heavier and more abundant fruit harvests. It can also help you pick and assess fruit. By lowering the density of tree branches and increasing access to fruit you will be able to reach fruit more easily and better assess its quality. Tree training occurs in two different phases: pruning and shaping.



Fruit tree branches tend to grow upwards and clustered together (think of the palm of your hand held up with fingers close together). This creates competition between branches for space, light, air and pesticide and, later, can make the harvesting process difficult. 


The aim of pruning is to remove this competition and create a central “leader” branch with symmetrical and well-spaced out fruit-bearing branches (think of the palm of your hand held up with fingers as wide as possible).

Prune your tree to create a single dominant branch at each branch layer level and remove other branches and offshoots. The University of Illinois has a great graphical representation of what a correctly pruned fruit tree should look like at various growth stages here.



Shaping branches after pruning helps fruit trees to develop a flatter and more lateral branch structure. The perfect angle is about 60 degrees from the leader branch (imagine a clock at 10’o clock or 2’o clock). Young branches can be shaped using braces – these are small objects like a toothpick, a piece of plastic or Styrofoam – that are placed between the fruit-bearing branch and the leader branch. The braces apply tension from the sturdier and stronger leader branch to the weaker and more malleable fruit-bearing branch – causing it to grow outwards on an incline rather than straight up. Once branches have been braced, a weight can be applied to the ends of a branch to exert further downward force. Something as light as a clothes peg on young fruit trees up to a piece of wood or brick tied onto a heavier branch will work.


Picking and assessing

By syncing pruning and shaping techniques you will be able to create a well ordered, functional and productive fruit tree. The reduction in branch density means that your access to fruit increases – for both manual and visual inspections – meaning you can better monitor the progress and quality of your fruit and pick more easily when it comes to harvest.




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