When fruit, such as peaches, apples, and plums, grows in size and weight, the branches of the tree on which it's growing can bend, sag, and even snap. There are several ways to prevent this, including pruning the tree in late winter, thinning the fruit in the spring, or providing supports for the branches. Branch supports can range from simple to elaborate and often depend on the type and size of your tree along with the style of your garden or orchard.
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Simple Branch Supports
As fruit trees blossom and begin to produce a bountiful harvest, keep your eye on the branches and take note of any that look like they might need additional reinforcement. It's all too common to see peach tree branches breaking under the weight of ripened peaches or dwarf apple trees uprooting beneath the burden of a heavy crop. Before your trees buckle under the pressure of another growing season, give them the support they need to get them through the summer.
If you aren't looking to lose any fruit by thinning out the crop, the least you can do is give your fruit tree support by helping it carry the weight. Branch supports don't have to be costly or time consuming. Limb supports that attach to a broom pole or piece of lumber can easily be found online or at your local garden store.
This method can also be as simple as leaning the branch atop a nearby fence or finding a big stick. Look for something that is sturdy and straight with a forked end. It doesn't need to be thick, but it does need to be tall enough to reach the branch in question and offer it a place to rest. Force the tree limb support pole into the ground vertically and place a sagging branch from your fruit tree inside the fork for added security. This Y-shaped tree branch support is a free and simple solution.
Decorative Branch Supports
A more elaborate, decorative solution for heavy, fruit-laden branches is a trellis. While a common trellis will work as a support, an espalier trellis — one that trains the tree to grow flat against a wall, fence, or wire frame — will turn your tree into a work of art. An espalier fruit tree is a great way to add a fruit tree to a small space and to create a natural boundary, and it is also a great solution to support fruit tree branches.
Create your own espalier system along an existing fence or wall with two 7-foot 4x4 posts and heavy-gauge wire. First choose a sunny location. Then set the posts 2 1/2 feet deep and 8 feet apart. Run three rows of wire horizontally and 18 inches apart. Plant your fruit tree just in front of the middle of the trellis system and position it so that at least two of its strongest branches are parallel to the wire. Prune away any branches that are not in line with the wires. Using a soft tie or nursery tape, secure the branches in training to the corresponding wires, encouraging them to grow in alignment and in the desired pattern. Keep pruning as the trunk grows, supporting new branches on corresponding wires.
It may take several years of growth to create an eye-catching espalier fruit tree, but its branches will be well supported along the way.