Stone Fruit: Rock Your Orchard’s World

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How to Get More Fruit From Your Home Orchard Trees

Talk about firm fruit! Actually these are homemade branch weights I add to encourage fruiting.

Sometimes my young fruit trees get out of line, that is they send vertical shoots to the high heavens and leave me standing out of arm’s reach and picking distance, only to become a sky cafe for the birds and squirrels. In addition, most fruit trees produce less fruit on vertical shoots so I like to encourage lateral growth. As trees mature, heavy fruit will bend the branch naturally and create a better branch angle for fruit production. I just like to speed up the process and the harvest with my homemade stone fruits, which are nothing more than rocks wrapped in wire and hooked to a tree branch like a very heavy Christmas ornament.  (Think Charlie Brown tree.) Here’s how you can make you own.

Since I am the thriftiest man this side of the Hood Canal, I recycle my materials from found objects. You’ll need:

  • rocks of various sizes and weights
  • wire coat hangers (Calm down Christina)
  • wire snips and/or pliers.

  1. Cut the wire coat hanger in the middle of the triangular base.
  2. Straighten wire to be perpendicular to hanging hook.

How to Make Stone Fruit (Fruit Tree Branch Weights)

  1. Position wire around middle of the rock
  2. Choose a rock that has a dent or two to hold the wire in place
  3. River rocks are not suggested because the smooth surface causes slippage.
  4. Wrap wire around the rock’s middle and twist very tightly with pliers.
  5. Cut the ends off.

Stone Fruit Placement

  1. In the top split photo, no stone fruit added
  2. In the bottom split photo, the stone fruit is placed far enough out to encourage lateral bending and fruit bud growth.
  3. Add weights after this years fruit has been picked.
  4. You don’t want the stone to create an inverted U-shape; that would cause too much stress on the branch.
  5. A gentle lowering of the branch is the goal here. You are not trying to make a weeping willow.
  6. Over a season or two the branch will grow into the angle created and you can remove the weights.
  7. Remove the weights if heavy fruiting occurs as the added weight may break the branch.

Bad rock, bad: this weight is placed too far out on the limb. A strong wind or heavy downpour may cause the branch to break or the rock to slip off.

Some heavy tree fruits (like apples) act as their own branch weights and create lateral branches naturally, but trees with small fruit (like cherries) may need a little help with lowering branches.

So if you have some fruiting branches reaching for the sky, bring them back down to earth with some branch weights. A year from now, your effort will be rewarded with a tastier, more succulent stone fruit then my homemade versions. (photo: Lapins cherries)

30 COMMENTS

  1. What a great idea! I love to recycle anything into something useful too! It is not only thrifty, but less wasteful too. The cherries are fabulous now – makes me want pie.

  2. I LOVE this! I have a pear tree with branches that grow straight up, and I am totally, totally, totally going to make some of these babies for it this year. Thanks!

  3. I think you must be the most clever gardener I’ve ever come across.

    That said, I am going to re-read your primer on raspberries so I don’t mess them up again this year.

    🙂

  4. My neighbor uses his old dumb bell weights to to this but I never knew until today what the heck this was I always wondered why he had weights hanging in his tree. Tommy you know everything!!!

  5. Absolutely fascinating! I don’t know anyone who has ever done this before. Must share with my mom and dad and my gfe readers right away. 🙂

    Thanks, Tom!
    Shirley

  6. Tommy, you are a hoot!!! Loved the explicit directions. I tell ya, you’re going to be competition for suspended stones design!!!! Seriously, great advice.

  7. Good thing that your dogs are already low to the ground-I can see it now-rock collars, or perhaps vests to keep them knee level. Lucky for them that you didn’t have tall children. “Honey get the coat hangers, this ones grown 2″ this year, I’m afeared he’s gonna get too leggy”. What will you think of next!!! I think I’ll call you Mr. Wizzard.

  8. Hi Tom,

    I’ve been reading all along but not commenting .I
    was so impressed with your what your mom did about your deer problem!! And now with this brilliant idea of yours, well great minds as they say!! I’m thrilled about this idea but I know my birds are going to be p.o.ed about the closing of their sky-cafe!! Best A-HA moment! Thanks for sharing 😉

  9. Ingenious as always.. will try on my getting leggy citrus. As they used to say on Soul Train… Rock Solid Brother!!!!

  10. been browsing your site for a bunch of rewarding hours when I came across this page – here is how they do the fruit tree weighting in Germany – instead of rocks, plastic bottles filled with water are used, as it is very easy to control the weight suited to the branch. Granted – does not look so at home as a wired rock.
    thank you for inspiring us waiting to go out there every morning to greet the day

    • Hi Barbara, thanks for the visit and kind words. I love the hanging bottle of water idea, and you I’ve added another weight-type to the mix, a window weight. They have a hole for the wire and they are just heavy enough to do some fine bending without breaking the branch. Again, thanks so much for adding a smile to my day. Tom

  11. I find it best to train younger trees from the start if you are able. After the initial pruning I tape small stones at strategic places on the tender branches and hold them in place until they set that way. Once they have set out laterally a few years I start the ends turning upward with ties. I admit it makes for a strange looking tree (like a bunch of forks tied together) but the fruit is easy to reach and they tend to produce more when kept properly pruned. It was the hardest thing for me to force myself to do but proper pruning has its rewards with fruit trees.

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