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Re: [fukuoka_farming] Fukuoka on trees

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  • Robin, Maya, or Napi
    Raining fruit. ... [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 6, 2002
      Raining fruit.

      Larry Haftl wrote:

      > I know I said no more big posts this weekend but the weatherman,
      > whom I know personally, got fooled. The high-pressure system headed
      > this way slowed down and won't get here until tomorrow.
      > Consequently,
      > it rained, it was cold, and there was only so much puttering I could
      > do outside. So I decided to take care of some unfinished business.
      > The following is a gift to Jamie, Marc and the others who were
      > thinking
      > about planting some fruit trees. You will have to wait until it is
      > posted on the website to see the illustrations. As always, it's a
      > draft and comments/corrections,etc. are welcome.
      > Growing Fruit Trees
      > In his book, "The Natural Way of Farming: The Theory and Practice
      > of Green Philosophy"(NWF), Masanobu Fukuoka provides a detailed
      > examination of how to grow fruit trees that can be as confusing as
      > it is informative and exciting. One example is his approach to
      > pruning.
      > Fukuoka is often thought to advocate no pruning, but in NWF he
      > describes
      > in detail not only why pruning is necessary, but also how it should
      > be done. The key to his approach rests in the following statement:
      > "How much wiser and easier it is to limit oneself to minimal
      > corrective
      > pruning aimed only at bringing the tree closer to its natural form
      > rather than practicing a method of fruit growing that requires
      > extensive
      > pruning each and every year." (pg. 212)
      > There are two important parts to that statement. The first is that
      > pruning should be limited to helping a tree achieve its natural
      > form,
      > and the second is the idea that trees actually have a natural form.
      > Both of those ideas do not seem new or revolutionary. Pick up almost
      > any gardening book on growing fruit trees and you will probably see
      > drawings of ideal shapes certain trees should have. Along with the
      > drawings comes the instruction to prune so that the tree achieves
      > that shape.
      > But if you read Fukuoka's analysis you begin to see how false and
      > misleading those drawings and instructions usually are.
      > On Natural Forms
      > "Orchardists have never tried growing fruit trees in their natural
      > form. To begin with, most have never even given any thought as to
      > what the natural form is. Of course pomologists will deny this,
      > saying
      > that they are working with the natural form of fruit trees and
      > looking
      > for ways to improve on this. But it is clear that they have not
      > really
      > looked in earnest at the natural form. Not a single book or report
      > has been published which discusses pruning based on such basic
      > factors
      > as the phyllotaxy of a citrus tree, or which explains that a
      > divergence
      > of so much gives such-and -such a natural form with primary and
      > secondary
      > scaffold branches of X degrees.
      > "Many have a vague idea of the natural form as something akin to
      > the shape of a neglected tree. But there is a world of difference
      > between the two.." (pg. 209)
      > "The natural forms shown from time to time in journals on fruit
      > growing
      > are not all what they are made out to be. These are just abandoned
      > trees of confused shape that have been left to grow untended after
      > having been initially pruned and otherwise cared for." (pg. 212)
      > "Scientists say that the natural form of a citrus tree is
      > hemispherical
      > with several primary scaffold branches extending out like the ribs
      > of a fan at an angle of from 40 to 70 degrees, but in truth no one
      > knows whether the true form of a citrus tree is that of a large
      > upright
      > tree or a low bush.
      > "Fruit growers have more or less decided that, if one considers such
      > operations as harvesting the fruit, pesticide spraying, and
      > fumigation,
      > the ideal form of citrus trees grown in a hillside orchard is a
      > round, flat-topped shape measuring at most about 9 feet high and
      > 14 feet in diameter." (pg. 210)
      > In this, as in all of his teachings, Fukuoka speaks from first-hand
      > experience:
      > "I planted citrus seed and observed the trees growing from these.
      > At the same time, I allowed a large number of various types of
      > citrus
      > trees to go unpruned. From these results, I was able to divine with
      > considerable certainty the natural form of a citrus tree.
      > "When I reported my findings at a meeting of the Ehime Prefecture
      > Fruit Growers Association, stating that the natural form of the
      > citrus
      > tree is not what it had been thought to be, but a central leader
      > type form, this created a stir among several scientists present,
      > but was laughed off as just so much nonsense by farmers." (pg. 214)
      > Fukuoka provides the following diagrams to illustrate his findings:
      > INSERT FIG. 4.7
      > INSERT FIG. 4.8
      > INSERT FIG 4.9
      > "I adopt the natural form of a tree as the model for the basic tree
      > shape in citrus cultivation. Even when something causes a tree to
      > take on a shape that deviates from the natural form or adapts to
      > the local environment, any pruning and training done should attempt
      > to return the tree to its natural form. There are several reasons
      > for this:
      > "1. The natural form permits tree growth and development best suited
      > to the cultivation conditions and environment. No branch or leaf
      > is wasted. This form enables maximum growth and maximum exposure
      > to sunlight, resulting in maximum yields. On the other hand, an
      > unnatural
      > form created artificially upsets the innate efficiency of the tree.
      > This reduces the tree's natural powers and commits the grower to
      > unending labors.
      > "2. The natural form consists of an erect central trunk, causing
      > little entanglement with neighboring trees or crowding of branches
      > and foliage. The amount of pruning required gradually decreases and
      > little disease or pest damage arises, necessitating only a minimum
      > of care. However, in natural open-center systems formed by thinning
      > the scaffold branches growing at the center of the tree, the
      > remaining
      > scaffold branches open up at the top of the tree and soon entangle
      > with adjacent trees. In addition, secondary scaffold branches and
      > laterals growing from several primary scaffold branches oriented
      > at unnatural angles (such as in three-stem systems) also crisscross
      > and entangle. This increases the amount of pruning that has to be
      > done after the tree has matured.
      > "3. In conical central leader type systems, oblique sunlight
      > penetrates
      > into the interior of the tree, but in open-center systems, the crown
      > of the tree extends outward in the shape of an inverse triangle that
      > reduces the penetration of sunlight to the base and interior of the
      > tree, inviting the withering of branches and attack by disease and
      > pests. Thus, expanding the shape of the tree results in lower rather
      > than higher yields.
      > "4. The natural form provides the best distribution and supply of
      > nutrients to the scaffold branches and laterals. In addition, the
      > external shape is balanced and a good harmony exists between the
      > tree growth and fruit production, giving a full fruit harvest each
      > year.
      > "5. The root system of a tree having a natural form closely
      > resembles
      > the shape of the aboveground portion of the tree. A deep root system
      > makes for a healthy tree resistant to external conditions." (pgs.
      > 216 & 218)
      > "Problems with the Natural Form: Although having many advantages,
      > the natural form is not without its share of problems in fruit
      > growing.
      > "1. The natural forms of young grapevines and persimmon, pear, and
      > apple trees have low branch, leaf and fruit densities, and thus
      > produce
      > small yields. This can be resolved by discreet pruning to increase
      > the density of fruit and branch formation.
      > "2. Fruit trees with a central leader system grow to a good height
      > and may be expected to pose climbing problems when it comes time
      > to pick the fruit. While this is true when the tree is still young,
      > as it matures, scaffold branches grow out from the leader at an
      > angle of about 20 degrees to the horizontal in a regular, spiraling
      > arrangement that make it easier to climb. In tall trees such as
      > persimmon,
      > pear, apple and loquat, this forms a framework that can be climbed
      > much like a spiral stairway.
      > "3. Creating a pure natural form is not easy, and the tree may
      > deviate
      > from this if adequate attention is not given to protective
      > management
      > at the seedling stage. This can be corrected in part by giving the
      > tree a modified central leader form. To achieve an ideal natural
      > form, the tree must be grown directly from seed or a rootstock tree
      > grown in a planting bed and field-grafted.
      > "4. Enabling the seedling to put out a vigorous, upright leader is
      > the key to successfully achieving a natural form. The grower must
      > observe where and at what angle primary and secondary scaffold
      > branches
      > emerge, and remove any unnatural branches. Normally, after five or
      > six years, when the saplings have reached six to ten feet in height,
      > there should be perhaps five or six secondary scaffold branches
      > extending out in a spiral pattern at intervals of about six to
      > twelve
      > inches such that the sixth secondary scaffold branch overlaps
      > vertically
      > with the first. Primary scaffold branches should emerge from the
      > central trunk at an angle of 40 degrees with the horizontal and
      > extend
      > outwards at an angle of about 20 degrees. Once the basic shape of
      > the tree is set, the need for training and pruning diminishes.
      > "5. The tree may depart from a natural form and take on an
      > open-center
      > form if the central leader becomes inclined, the tip of the leader
      > is weak, or the tree sustains an injury. There should be no problem
      > though, as long as the grower keeps a mental image of a pure natural
      > form and prunes and trains the tree to approach as closely as
      > possible
      > to that form. A tree that has become fully shaped while young will
      > not need heavy pruning when mature. However, if left to grow
      > untended
      > when young, the tree may require considerable thinning and pruning
      > each year and may even need major surgical reconstruction when fully
      > grown. Considering the many years of toil and losses that may
      > otherwise
      > ensue, it is certainly preferable to choose to do some formative
      > pruning early on." (pgs. 218 & 219)
      > As you can see, Fukuoka uses and suggests judicious pruning,
      > primarily
      > when the tree is young, in order to help the tree achieve a natural
      > form. By pruning in this manner the fruit grower dramatically
      > reduces
      > the amount of annual pruning needed as the tree begins to bear fruit
      > and matures. He also states that a tree left untended will grow into
      > a "confusing" form. At first this seems counter-intuitive. It seems
      > that if you plant a seed and leave it alone it will automatically
      > grow into a "natural" form. But there are three subtle conditions
      > at work here. They are:
      > 1. As Fukuoka points out, the trees often shown in journals were
      > originally cultivated, and perhaps pruned, and then abandoned. They
      > were rarely grown from seeds and left in their original location.
      > Nurserymen may start with seeds, but then they transplant the
      > seedlings
      > once or twice before they are sold to the grower, who transplants
      > the tree once again. At each stage it is likely that some pruning
      > is done.
      > 2. Keep in mind that Fukuoka is talking here about growing fruit
      > trees for commercial production, not the creation of a natural
      > woodland.
      > In his experiments he found that trees grown from seeds usually
      > had yields too low to make them commercially useful. Here are a few
      > quotes about that.
      > "When I tried the direct planting of mandarin orange seed, although
      > I found that trees grown from seed are inferior and generally
      > useless
      > because they revert or degenerate, this gave me a clue as to the
      > true form of the tree and its natural rate of growth." (pg. 194)
      > "Ö but it might be interesting in some cases to plant seed directly
      > and grow the young saplings into majestic trees having a natural
      > form. Such a tree bears fruit of vastly differing sizes and shape
      > that are unfit for the market. Yet, on the other hand, there always
      > exists the possibility that an unusual fruit will arise from the
      > seed. Indeed, why not multiply the joys of life by creating a
      > natural
      > orchard full of variety and surprises?" (pg. 194)
      > 3. It is important to keep in mind that Fukuoka is a farmer, not
      > someone who is simply trying to set up a self-sufficient homestead,
      > and certainly not a hermit trying to return to some sort of
      > primitive
      > hunter-gatherer existence. In NWF, he is talking about how to create
      > and operate a commercially viable farm while letting nature do most,
      > if not all, of the work traditionally done by the farmer. At times,
      > however, he talks about how to develop something less commercial
      > and much closer to a pure natural state. One example is the
      > suggestion
      > quoted above about planting from seed and letting it just grow as
      > it will. Another is his description of how to set up an orchard.
      > On Establishing an Orchard
      > "Orchard Management: To establish a natural orchard, one should dig
      > large holes here and there among the stumps of felled trees and
      > plant
      > unpruned saplings and fruit seed over the site, leaving these
      > unattended
      > just as one would leave alone a reforested stand of trees. Of
      > course,
      > suckers grow from the cut tree stumps and weeds and low brush
      > flourishes.
      > Orchard management at this stage consists primarily of coming in
      > twice a year to cut the weeds and underbrush with a large sickle.
      > " (pg. 194)
      > That sounds like a very clear description of how to establish a
      > close
      > to pure natural orchard. It would be if he hadn't written the
      > following
      > on the previous page:
      > "Fruit saplings should be planted at equal intervals along hill
      > contours.
      > Dig a fairly deep hole, fill it with coarse organic matter, and
      > plant the sapling over this." (pg. 193)
      > I think the key to reconciling the two statements is to remember
      > that he is talking about establishing a large commercial orchard.
      > He talks about expanding his orchard up a hillside by cutting the
      > existing trees and burying them in contours along the hillside. He
      > mentions that he was trying to put in one thousand trees and that
      > he was trying to achieve something as close as possible to a pure
      > natural form, but the sheer volume of trees and the work required
      > prevented that to a degree.
      > If you are trying to establish a small personal woodland along the
      > lines of Robert Hart's garden then you could, and perhaps should,
      > start by planting seeds rather than saplings, and let them go where
      > they will. If you are trying to start a commercially viable orchard
      > then you will have to start primarily with saplings. Fukuoka has
      > a brief discussion on this:
      > "Obviously, from the standpoint of natural farming we would expect
      > trees grown from seed to be preferable to grafted nursery stock.
      > Ö However, when a tree is grafted, the flow of sap is blocked at
      > the graft juncture, resulting either in a dwarf tree that must be
      > heavily fertilized, or in a tree with a short lifetime and poor
      > resistance
      > to temperature extremes.
      > "While in principle a young tree grown from seed grows faster than
      > grafted stock, I learned that when the initial grafted stock is one
      > to two years old, natural seedlings do not grow as rapidly during
      > the first two or three years and care is also difficult. However,
      > when raised with great care, trees grown from seed develop the most
      > quickly. Citrus rootstock takes more time and sends down shallower
      > roots.
      > "Citrus trees may generally be grown from nursery plants grafted
      > with rootstock, which, although shallow rooted, are cold-hardy.
      > Apple
      > trees can be trained into dwarf trees by using dwarfing stock,Ö"
      > (pg. 194)
      > While Fukuoka is talking about how to establish a commercially
      > viable
      > fruit orchard, he offers suggestions that, if followed, would create
      > a decidedly non-typical operation. Below are some of his
      > suggestions.
      > "Weeds: Although the growth of fruit trees among this other
      > vegetation
      > [Öeulalia and other weeds growing thickly among the brush and
      > assorted
      > trees] was irregular and yielded poor harvests in some cases, there
      > was very little damage from disease and insects.
      > "Later, with continued cutting back of the underbrush, the non-fruit
      > trees receded and weeds such as bracken, mugwort, and kudzu grew
      > up in their place. I was able to control or suppress weed growth
      > at that point by broadcasting clover seed over the entire orchard.
      > " (pg. 195)
      > "Avoid monoculture of fruit trees. Plant deciduous fruit trees
      > together
      > with evergreen fruit trees and never forget to interplant green
      > manure
      > trees. These may include acacia, myrtle, alder, and podocarpus.
      > "You may also Ö interplant some large trees and shrubs, including
      > climbing fruit vines such as grapevine, akebia, and Chinese
      > gooseberry.
      > "Leguminous green manure plants and other herbs that enrich the
      > orchard
      > soil may be planted as orchard undergrowth. Forage crops and
      > semiwild
      > vegetables can also be grown in abundance, and both poultry and
      > livestock
      > allowed to graze freely in the orchard.
      > And perhaps the best quote of allÖ.
      > "A natural orchard in which full, three-dimensional use of space
      > is made in this way is entirely different from conventional orchards
      > that employ high-production techniques. For the individual wishing
      > to live in communion with nature, this is truly a paradise on earth.
      > " (pg. 196)
      > END DRAFT
      > Larry Haftl
      > larry@...
      > http://larryhaftl.com/fukuoka
      > http://FukuokaNaturalFarming.org
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