Creating more fruiting wood for close plantings - BYOC

All this great information about hinge cuts to lower branch angles has got me thinking of what to do with really close plantings. I have 7 or 8 stonefruit planted in a row, all about 3 feet away from each other. I have a few limbs being held down with nursery tape angling towards my side yard walkway, but can’t really do that along the row as the branches would be encroaching into the neighboring trees. I’ve been pruning to limit height and trying to maintain an open center but haven’t figured out a way to have the branches set more horizontally to produce more fruiting wood. My three pluots are big enough now where they are almost touching each other width wise. Most of these were 15 gallon containerized plantings so there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to train them right off the bat.

Any training tips for especially close plantings to create more fruiting wood? I think @hoosierquilt and @MrClint both have close row plantings? Or is this something you just understand is a trade off for having close plantings?

The way I grow such closely spaced trees is to keep all the scaffolds coming out the sides of the row, not heading right at the trees next to them. In training I bend them down to get the more horizontal wood. It depends a lot on the particular tree how many come out each side total, but its a lot fewer scaffolds than a normal tree – there just isn’t room for them. Some are higher some are lower, it varies from tree to tree. I also may bend some limbs off the main bent one a year or two later, and those may be “side” branches heading into the neighbor trees which I will keep shorter, like 1’ long. Sometimes there is no need for bending as good fruiting wood forms on its own, or maybe only a few spreaders will work, etc. Each tree in its location will have a unique personality, I don’t aim for the same style on each tree. Peaches and cherries can fruit well without horizontal bending, whereas plums and apricots are somewhat harder and require more bending and tying down.


My pluots and most other stone fruits set plenty of flower buds whether vertical or horizontal. Orientation doesn’t seem to matter at all. They’ll even fruit pointed straight down. What does matter is adequate light. You get that by pruning. And after several, or less, yrs of fruiting the spurs quit growing and therefore quit flowering. That happens sooner if light is inadequate. Even on an open tree renewal pruning is needed in time.

Pears and apples are the fruits where branch orientation matters much more.

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The problem I have on plums is the trees will want to only produce huge 5-10’ shoots and no fruiting wood. For some plums they worked without any bending but Euro plums in particular never fruited until I started limb bending. It could be something to do with the less light I have.


Scott my euro (green gage) did the same thing and took over 10 years. I think it may have been year 13 but I can’t recall now. The other plums ( japanese) produced in 2-3 years. I grafted them in 2014 i think. My euro still would not be producing if you would not have told me the branch bending trick.

I saw this kind of growth on a lot of my pluots but one of these really long branches produced several flowers on the top 15 inches of the branch, leaves on the rest.

Since there is not much I can do space wise, I’ll definitely prune to allow more light to penetrate into the tree.

Great thread!

If I may ask a related question: For Japanese plum and pluot, will summer pruning (including tipping, pinching, heading cut) at the right timing on the vigor vegetative growth promotes fruit spur / fruit site formation? Is it because having better light penetration or change in auxins hormones state? Unfortunately, my climate is not sunny California, East coast SE NY, 7b.

Thank you

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@brownmola, you’ve had great advice so far. I would only add that there are no recommendations from DWN BYOC for hinge cuts or tree branch bending. etc. No need to overthink things. Just prune to allow room enough to ripen some fruit. Here are example hedgerow plantings from the DWN site:

There are other great hedgerow examples for BYOC on the DWN video channel on youtube.

So how do you get your euro plums to fruit without branch bending?

Mr Clint is in California, the Land of Sun :sunny:

I think we need to start a new acronym, EBYOC, Eastern Backyard orchard culture - the DWN method doesn’t work straight out of the box for us.


I would love to hear more about Euro pedestrian orchard strategies for plums and other stone fruit. They have been growing small trees for decades, yet you hear little about the techniques.

I think more sun can help here as well. I’ve got several Euros planted in one of my better locations- not 100% sun, but maybe an hour shaved out during the middle and a half hour missing at dawn. I think at least a couple of them set fruit (1-3 pieces, not many) in their second year (I know Bluebyrd did, and I think Valor may have had 1 as well).

Looking at the trees today, I think I see some spurs, even on the vertically growing parts. Maybe someone can comment here, or I can wait a month or so and see what flowers :slightly_smiling:

A vertically growing Jam Session (supposedly a Damson without the astringency). Note the additional ~5’ of new growth at the top and the 1-3" long spurs from the previous year.

A bit closer shot of a Valor which is growing at maybe 60 degrees (I pulled it down for the pic).

Those look like vegetative buds to me. If you have fruiting buds there will usually be clusters of buds, not just all in a row along the stem like that. Euro plums can set fruit early, but the combination of eastern lower-sun conditions and very close plantings makes it much harder to get early set.

@Drew51 , the Europeans invented espalier and other techniques for this purpose. Have a read through Wright’s Fruit Growers Guide Volume II - its more than 100 years old but still a real eye-opener in terms of advanced pruning and training techniques - The fruit grower's guide : Wright, John, 1836-1916 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive.

Interesting feedback from folks!

@brownmola, I do more multi-planting than hedgerows. Leaving some gaps here and there for potted plants (among other things) has worked out well for me. More of an aesthetics choice than anything else. If we keep up on our Summer pruning there won’t be a shortage of fruiting wood with BYOC.

Here’s a two-tree one hole planting of Flavor Grenade and Royal apricot. There’s plenty of fruit thinning in my future and certainly no lack of fruiting wood:

If you follow the BYOC playbook, you’ll be fine.


Plum trees with palm trees in the background…only in California.

Also Drew you should have a ‘pinterest’ account and look up the art of espalier. Your eyeballs will pop out of your head and the technique info is there as well. Look up Le Notre. The braiding of branches has been fascinating to me rarely do you see them here on a large scale; i.e. forming fences not trunks of trees. Beautiful!

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I know about it, I have a currant cordon, which is a form of espalier. I didn’t think about it though in the context of fruiting wood. I can see how it would work well.

I summer pruned those back below 6 feet or so (saw it on the DW network so gotta be right, LOL). I had it in my mind that more spur wood would result. I had lots of the spurring structures @BobVance shows and it looks like he stubbed his back too. So mine looks like this…

My pruning goal is to be able to net it. I have 2’ high 1" chicken wire below and my bird netting/squirrel deterrent is only 14’ wide which I want to lay over 9 gauge wire hoops.

Good to know b/c everything is pruned to open center and now I have to figure how to restructure just a few trees.

Another question is how to get fruit to bear proximal to the trunk rather than distal. I guess trial and error?

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Do you have enough sun with all of the surrounding trees?