We have a dwarf Mutsu apple (great flavor) which developed a severe
"lean" after a fall rain. The tree was heavily weighted on one side
with a lot of fruit. After more rain the lowest branch is nearly touching
Has anyone had any success in righting such a tree, possibly by applying
tension over months of time? My wife says just rip it out... and I have
to say that once the soil has been displaced it's easy to imagine the same
problem reoccurring even if we manage to straighten it up.
Tales of success or failure welcome!
I would think it could be pulled back up to a better position. Maybe put
good tension on it and soak the soil with a hose and see what happens.
I'm not sure how big this tree is but if it's a dwarf, it's not huge.
I'm wondering if the trunk is still flexible? Usually by the time the
tree produces very much fruit, the wood is pretty hard.
If you do manage to improve it by either moving the roots in the soil or
by flexing the trunk, you will want to stake it to hold it in that
position for at least 2 years.
Apple trees don't need to have a nice straight trunk. Don't overlook the
possibility of creative pruning in the spring to force growth in the
direction you want.
Frank Miles wrote:
I go along with Steve, as you can see in my reply. However, I would not try
to necessarily straighten it out in one operation. I would apply righting force
keeping an eye on the roots on the leaning side. If they look like they are
out of the ground, or you hear some breaking, I would stop and wait several
before another attempt. I forgot about the wetting of the roots, and that is
a good move to help release the pressure on the roots in the leaning side. If
have any roots exposed to the air, I would cover them with soil so they don't
You do not say how old the tree is, or what size it is (trunk diameter).
Your mistake was
possibly not thinning the fruit to keep the weight off the branches, not
propping up the weighted branches when the fruit got big, and not staking the
earlier. I think your idea of gradually applying a righting force to the tree
is the best
approach. I assume this is a fairly mature tree, so digging it up and
be quite a chore, and may disturb the roots too much. Depending on the
you have the Mutsu on, the root structure of dwarf trees can be shallow, so
them is not out of the question. You can also do some selective pruning to
more growth on the side opposite the lean, to balance the tree more.
If this is a healthy and productive tree, I would not dig it out, as that
would be a
last resort. My dwarf trees have never leaned over as far as yours, because
supports and stakes I use, but some of them have developed a lean. I have
in deep stakes and applied gradual pressures and in some cases it straightens
and in others it just keeps them from leaning more. If your soil is very
may want to be more careful in future selection of dwarf trees as regards the
stock they are on.
Frank Miles wrote:
A bit over two years ago, during a heavy wind storm after our soil having
been saturated with rain for several days, one of my pear trees fell over,
not just leaning but all the way over onto the chain link fence. The
cherry tree had fallen over that June (that was a decay problem, the trunk
was completely hollow!), so I just had to try to save the pear tree, not
wanting to lose two trees in one year!
The neighbor came over and, between the two of us, we managed to get it
upright and braced it with a large forked limb from the cherry tree. That
left the end of the brace far enough from the tree to allow a stake to be
driven into the ground to secure the brace. It has borne fruit two
summers since that happened. We've left the brace and stake in place and
are not likely to remove it for another couple of years to help ensure the
roots have had a chance to secure themselves even more in what became soil
that was too loose. The tree was probably at least ten or fifteen years
old, hard to say since it appears to be a semi-dwarf of some type as it
doesn't seem to want to grow especially tall and is probably12-15 feet at
the tallest, but then hard to say with pruning. (It's a Barlett with
Regarding your soil being displaced, I would think as long as the tree is
upright and secure, that time will attend to the soil issue. You
wouldn't, off course, want to remove the braces in just a few weeks, it
being important to give the soil plenty of time to "re-establish" as well
as new roots to grow into new areas. Definitely don't cultivate the soil
in the drip line. If the braces are not attractive, place some yard
ornaments around them to disguise the braces, maybe a good place for deer
statues? (Be creative.)
It wouldn't be my desire to just get rid of a good tree because it leans
if there is any way it can be saved. If you remove it, it has no chance
for recovery. If you try and it doesn't make it, you can always remove it
later. Luck may very well be on your side as it was for the pear tree and
it will flourish and reward you for the effort. It will surely survive at
least long enough for you to get some good grafts from it. It's worth the
effort to try to save it, especially if you like the fruit. Even a same
variety may not give as delicious of fruit as this one does (whereas
Definitely give it a try!
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