Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Useful things

I've been pondering the great ponder, when one gets a repetitious item through consumerism. Somewhat out of necessity too. I'm talking about onion bags. Those plastic nylon nets when buying in bulk. I've kept several over the years, always with that question, what on earth can I do with them? 

Well today, that question has been answered...




I've turned them into weights, to help pull down new growth of my avocado tree. Those shoots are heading for the sky, and I don't want that. I want to be able to reach the avocados, rather than needing a ladder. So the shoots which grew after pruning my tree last winter, are now being weighed down with my recycled onion bags. They have to be used on green flexible growth, in order to train them before they harden off.

Of course there's more to it than onion bags...but not much more.




This was a large onion bag, about 5-8kgs worth, but you could use the 2 or 1kg onion bags too. Because it was a long, large onion bag though, I cut it in half. The top had a draw string, already built in, so I just tied a knot to seal the base. Then I added however many rocks I needed - sealing it with some leftover twine from a bale of Lucerne. (Note: cut length of twine in half, to go the distance between both bags).

Finally, another knot was tied, to make a large loop in the twine (see above).




This loop has to be big enough, so you can pass the bag of rocks through it. You select the place on the branch you want to weigh down, then simply pass the bag through the loop, and slip it into place. Gravity does the rest!

This requires some experimentation for where you'll place the bag, and also how much weight is inevitably placed in them too.




Because the aim is to bend the shoot, without actually splitting it. Which is why you gently let the onion bag down, once attached to the shoot. If you hear any cracking sounds, you might have to move the bag, lower down the shoot, or reduce how many rocks are in the bag.

Weighing down, upper shoots, or even lateral branches, helps keep fruit within reach. A bit of applied stress to the branch, also increases the strength of it to cope with a glut of fruit. Especially useful with trees which are prone to glut.




This is a lower branch of the same tree, which already has a natural bend in it. No artificial weights were applied by me. This is the lower branch's attempt to reach sunlight, from competition with the upper canopy. So avocado trees, are good specimens for training into more manageable sizes.

Some training is required for this tree, because it isn't in a desirable location. It's sitting on top of a retaining wall, so it's roots can only spread so far for nourishment and stability. By reducing the height and deliberately training the upper branches to grow downwards (through applied weights) I'm helping the tree survive it's limited growing space.

This can be done with any kind of tree, with flexible new growth, and tends to put forth gluts of fruit. Apple trees come to mind, so does any kind of stone fruit tree. I'm sure there are other uses for onion bags. Have you discovered any?


16 comments:

  1. What a great idea! I have a young avocado tree and I want to be able to reach and pick avocados easily so I could try that. This year, before we left on holidays, we netted our tree as there were 6 little avocados (our tree's first fruit). On return from holidays, only 1 fruit remains. I've no idea where the other 5 went! Meg:)

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    1. I also lost my first 5-6 fruit under mysterious circumstances, last year. I would have suspected a night-time marauder, such as possums, however I discovered the fruit under the tree. They weren't chewed in any way. I had to look hard for them on the ground though, as they weren't big and easily camouflaged by the leaf mulch.

      If there is no sign of the fruit on the ground, then it probably was a possum. If you do find them, I suspect a lack of moisture and unideal conditions might cause fruit drop. Also, fungal problems can cause fruit drop if its too moist with little air circulation.

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  2. That is a good idea for training trees Chris.

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  3. I use them as resuable fruit bags at market or supermarket (confuses them at the checkout though!) and just general bags. They are usefully stretchy. I can't even think of specifics because I use them for some many things (not yet tree weights). I did use a couple to put limestone in our rainwater tanks when the ph was low. And there is one holding the lid together on our trivial pursuit game.

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    1. LOL, at the checkout. Probably wondering why your carrots are in the onion bags.

      I like all your ideas with onion bags. The game board is a new one for me though. ;) Thanks for sharing.

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  4. That is a good idea, Chris. Our avocado tree is huge and we can't reach most of the fruit. I know the fruit bags can be used as scrubbers but hadn't heard of any uses for the onion bags before.

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    1. I'd heard of them used as scrubbers too. I've wondered if they had enough gumption to handle some of the caked-on food we get on our wok though, so haven't tried it yet.

      Glad to hear you have such a nice avocado tree, and that it's producing for you. Fruit trees are such an investment of time and resources. But worth it. :)

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  5. Meg, it would be possums, they loooove avos,they also eat my coriander and parsley down to the soil and have a particular fondness for 'string of pearls' ....disappeared overnight.

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    1. Possums. Silent, but deadly in the garden.

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  6. Avocado tree....sigh.!!! The frosts have killed all four that we planted over the years, in a new spot each time. No avocados for us. But, I was looking at one of the new plum trees this morning that's growing too tall, and thought I must show this post to Brian, the fruit tree manager, and ask his permission to weight down the new branches. I don't really want to be climbing a ladder to pick the fruit when I'm 90yrs old. ;-)

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    1. I saw Peter Cundle talk about this technique on Gardening Australia, years ago. Only he would tie twine to a branch, then stake the other end of the twine, to the ground.

      He said it was an old technique used especially for granny smith apples, so it wouldn't spilt the branches with the weight of fruit. So if they were using this technique, back before picking machines were invented, it must be okay. :)

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  7. Good idea, Chris. Where I did my permie course, he had the branches tied down to bricks on the ground. Yours is a much better idea because the onion bag can be hanging anywhere in the tree and not interfere with access. It's so satisfying when you put something away and finally find a use for it. It's all about mindset, I think. Most people will just toss stuff into the bin without a thought. Maybe it's permaculture that encourages the thought, "what can I use that for?"

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    1. It's great to read this technique has been used successfully before. I imagine there are plenty of ways to get the branches to bend. All roads lead to Rome, as they say. But yes, it's good that I don't have to trip over twine at foot level to achieve the same end. I'd be more inclined to knock my head with the rocks, if I wasn't looking though, lol. ;)

      Permaculture definitely turned my mind to these solutions more readily, than without it. :)

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  8. Good thinking! I also cut them up and use them as scrub-buds for washing pots and pans, the bathtub etc....they work quite well actually

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    1. Good to know they work. I'll have to give it a try. :)

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