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Topworking plan-Good or bad idea?

Posted by James Smith 
Topworking plan-Good or bad idea?
January 31, 2021 01:43AM
My property has about nine acres of commercial orchard. Rows are 20 feet apart, trees are about 10 feet apart...and crowded. The orchardist that leased it let the trees grow together and spread out, some trees are nearly touching trees in the next row. I estimate there are around 1500 trees, too many for a community orchard, not to say a person of my age and lack of experience. So some trees need to go, others need to stay to provide privacy from the road and neighbours. I split the orchards at the driveway, the south orchard is about two acres and irrigated by an irrigation district. I pay for the water in property taxes and the water is piped to me in the same manner city people get their house water. I've decided to remove all but privacy trees to put in vegetable crops. I started cutting down trees, removing every other one to see how the spacing worked out. I liked the space the trees had, I could now walk all around them and work them. So my thinking is to remove every other one in the north orchard, which is irrigated from a water righted well. But rather than cutting down the trees, just top work every other tree. Then after the grafted trees fill out remove the originals. This way the orchard is still productive while waiting for the new production. I ran the idea past the orchardist, he didn't like it. He thought the old trees might shade out the grafted ones, or damage them when pruning. He said to do the entire block at once. But then he is a commercial orchardist, he is all about getting as much production as one can. So what say you? Am I too far out of the box?

My first attempts at posting pictures didn't go well, here's another try:



The blocks in red need to remain for privacy. When I get a fence and hedgerow in they can either be top worked or removed. Their fate really relies on how much I can handle.

The blocks in green are being removed to make way for vegetables.

The blocks in orange are on slope, no need to keep trees that are difficult to work, they are going.

The blocks in yellow can be top worked and will be kept in orchard permanently.

Any and all ideas are welcomed.

Washington Okanogan Valley
Zone 6b
Re: Topworking plan-Good or bad idea?
January 31, 2021 03:28AM
Top working every other sounds like a great idea for all the reasons you mentioned -- and continue to stay wary of the commercial/conventional advice. As someone trying to get more mature trees going , it hurts me to think about cutting one down ! Also, don't write off the stuff on slope -- sometimes slope can be a blessing (excess water from heavy rain won't drown them and frost is less likely to settle on them). It'd be preferable to have those slope trees planted on the contour though.

Josh Klatt
Ohio River Valley
Zone 6b
Re: Topworking plan-Good or bad idea?
February 03, 2021 05:41AM
Thanks for your reply, Josh. I understand the pain, I hate taking out a tree. But I have too many to properly take care of, but will keep as many as possible. My plan includes making my property a sanctuary for bees and want the trees for pollen and nectar. Trees removed will make way for flora that will provide pollen and nectar after the apples are done. Here are a few pictures of what I have:



You can see some of the trees grow well across the row.



Some are large, old trees, then smaller, younger ones were planted in between.



Trees do not have space between them in the rows.



Sunset tonight in the south orchard, where the 'light' pruning has begun!

Rather than looking at it as cutting down a tree, I'm telling myself it's providing ramial wood chips.

Washington Okanogan Valley
Zone 6b
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