I’m new to chestnuts. I have 5 Chinese chestnuts which are now about 2 feet out of 5 foot grow tubes this summer. The tops are bending over like candy canes. The growth tips are nearly horizontal on most of them.
Is this something that will correct itself with time? Or should I stake a little higher to straighten them out? One has started to branch, the other 4 are still whips. These are in my front lawn so I’d like them to grow symmetrically eventually.
5 foot tree tubes? How tall/wide are they? I have my fruit trees growing in pots so I can move them. I use grow bags because it produces air pruning and they are cheap at 20-23 dollars for a 100 gallon bag. My pots are 39 inches tall by about 3 feet wide. What I have learned is trees and other plants will grow to the pot. I had a blueberry in a 14 inch wide pot by 5 feet going down. There was no growth all summer long because the roots could not spread. A 1 gallon pot was nearly the diameter of the pot for example. When I took it out of the pot at winter time there was no growth under the plant because generally speaking plants don’t send their roots directly downward. Another thing I could think of is how many year have you had the tree? I bought 2 cherry trees last year. One cherry tree was pruned so it had more buds coming out the side. The other was pruned so it made a Y shape. The ones that was pruned so it had more side branches showed more growth year one in making vertical branches because it had more buds to make more stems. The one that was not shaped like a Y also had a bigger root system so it put out a few feet of growth in a year before slowing down to almost no growth in August of September but showing the same kind of growth next spring. The Y shaped one with few roots showed a but of growth first year with maybe a foot or less of growth due to the little root system. This year the Y tree is showing the growth the tree that had a lot of fruit buds and was better pruned this year. It is just a year behind the tree that was better pruned. Same thing is happening with the fruit tree that happened this year for the most part. The ones with lateral growth are forming almost a bush like habit or are growing more like a tradition tree depending on pruning while the ones that were but to the trunk are made to form their own habit or are the Y habit.
Trees grow much faster in the tree tube. Chinese chestnuts grow especially fast and whippy…once they exit out of the top of tube and experience wind stress they will develop “muscles” and straighten themselves… that has been my experience.
All of my american chestnuts are in 5ft welded wire cages. They don’t grow as tall as quickly as the tree tubes, but they’re stocky and well anchored against the wind. This one here recently put out its first catkins.
I have a small, bearing age fruit tree nursery and straightening trees is just a part of our work schedule. We use metal conduits used for protecting electric wiring- they are cheap and available at the home improvement big boxes. The thinnest available should be adequately rigid. Use vinyl electric tape and a lot of hand strength (you may need some help) to force the trunk to conform to the conduit stake. You may need to drive the stake into the ground first if the tree isn’t well anchored by its own roots. Start from the base up and you should only have to wrap it several times around at 3 or 4 places along the trunk to straighten a tree. I remove it at the end of growing season.
On trees that have gotten too rigid to bend I use hinges to straighten them- 4 or 5 cuts 1/3rd deep with a sharp pruning saw at the point of the crook where I want it to bend on the side I want it to bend towards.
In the future you might consider starting with the conduits and training your trees to them for the first few years- this is standard procedure at some commercial orchards to protect trees from tipping over for their first cropping years. Of course, trees do grow somewhat better if they can sway in the wind. The develop more taper (thicker trunks). But trees grown with rigid stakes do end up the same after a couple of season without the stake. You can always stake a single branch if you are afraid they aren’t strong enough when central stake is first removed, but I’ve never had a tree snap because of using a stake and then removing it.
Thanks Alan et al. I had some extra 7 foot fiberglass stakes on hand. The tree tubes are still on. I secured the stakes to the tubes and tied the whips up to straighten them. Looks a little weird, but I’m hopeful it’ll work.