Re: [fukuoka_farming] Fukuoka on trees
- Raining fruit.
Larry Haftl wrote:
> I know I said no more big posts this weekend but the weatherman,[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
> whom I know personally, got fooled. The high-pressure system headed
> this way slowed down and won't get here until tomorrow.
> 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
> 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.
> BEGIN DRAFT
> 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
> Fukuoka is often thought to advocate no pruning, but in NWF he
> 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
> pruning aimed only at bringing the tree closer to its natural form
> rather than practicing a method of fruit growing that requires
> 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
> 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,
> that they are working with the natural form of fruit trees and
> for ways to improve on this. But it is clear that they have not
> looked in earnest at the natural form. Not a single book or report
> has been published which discusses pruning based on such basic
> as the phyllotaxy of a citrus tree, or which explains that a
> of so much gives such-and -such a natural form with primary and
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> "I planted citrus seed and observed the trees growing from these.
> At the same time, I allowed a large number of various types of
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> "5. The root system of a tree having a natural form closely
> 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
> "1. The natural forms of young grapevines and persimmon, pear, and
> apple trees have low branch, leaf and fruit densities, and thus
> 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
> 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
> from this if adequate attention is not given to protective
> 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
> 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
> inches such that the sixth secondary scaffold branch overlaps
> with the first. Primary scaffold branches should emerge from the
> central trunk at an angle of 40 degrees with the horizontal and
> 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
> 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
> to that form. A tree that has become fully shaped while young will
> not need heavy pruning when mature. However, if left to grow
> 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
> 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,
> when the tree is young, in order to help the tree achieve a natural
> form. By pruning in this manner the fruit grower dramatically
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> unpruned saplings and fruit seed over the site, leaving these
> just as one would leave alone a reforested stand of trees. Of
> suckers grow from the cut tree stumps and weeds and low brush
> 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
> to pure natural orchard. It would be if he hadn't written the
> on the previous page:
> "Fruit saplings should be planted at equal intervals along hill
> 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
> 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
> "Citrus trees may generally be grown from nursery plants grafted
> with rootstock, which, although shallow rooted, are cold-hardy.
> trees can be trained into dwarf trees by using dwarfing stock,Ö"
> (pg. 194)
> While Fukuoka is talking about how to establish a commercially
> fruit orchard, he offers suggestions that, if followed, would create
> a decidedly non-typical operation. Below are some of his
> "Weeds: Although the growth of fruit trees among this other
> [Öeulalia and other weeds growing thickly among the brush and
> 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
> with evergreen fruit trees and never forget to interplant green
> 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
> "Leguminous green manure plants and other herbs that enrich the
> soil may be planted as orchard undergrowth. Forage crops and
> vegetables can also be grown in abundance, and both poultry and
> 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
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