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Fruit-picking ladder?

Posted by nygardener z6 New York (My Page) on
Sun, Oct 16, 11 at 4:20

What sort of ladder do you use for picking? I used an ordinary stepladder last weekend to try to harvest high-up apples and took a nasty fall, even though I was standing only a few feet off the ground. Tips for avoiding mishaps?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

The conventional fruit picking ladder is a tri-pod but I prefer an adjustable step ladder of the Little Giant type. To me it's the most stable ladder for uneven ground and I'm on a ladder pruning fruit trees for about 7 months of the year.

You can order the cheapest Little Giant version which doesn't come with a life time guarantee but is much lighter than the least expensive model that does or save another 90 bucks or so and buy a knock-off. The knock-offs don't tend to be as well engineered.

AM Leanord sells a tri-pod made of wood for a metal one you can go to OESCO or somebody that serves the commercial fruit industry.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

I thought about a my run of the mill step ladder about 5 years ago when my then oldest tree was about 6' tall and realized it would never do in the future. A good ladder is far less expensive than a trip to the ER and a wee-bit-o orthopedic surgery. Finally decided on a Tallman brand 8', aluminum tripod ladder, only went 8' because I planned to keep the trees short enough to work with that height ladder. Now that I've corrected the previous training errors (no scaffold bays) it works very well. All my ground is flat and level. One particular thing that is nice is the step depths, very comfortable on the feet. The Tallman ladder appears to be very well made, no wobble at all, no flex and decent gauge aluminum, time will tell over the years how it stands up to my weight plus the fruit filled picking baskets.

A down side, UPS can't handle it's size so shipping can be relatively expensive. Lucky for me, I was able to pick up mine at a growers expo only 2 hrs from here and saved the drop ship freight charge.

Like the weight too, very easy for me at 6', 180 lbs to handle.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

  • Posted by murky z8f pnw Portlan (My Page) on
    Mon, Oct 17, 11 at 1:30

Here's a picture of a 14' aluminum tripod orchard ladder in front of my green gage plum tree. I also have an 8' one which is 10 times as easy to move around and position.

Here is a link that might be useful: Article praising the aluminum tripod orchard ladder


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

My first assistant pruner had over 10 years experience on a tripod ladder pruning in commercial orchards 4 months of the year. He's a pretty conservative guy but once he tried a Little Giant design he never went back to tri-pod.

Tri-pods have a couple of nice features because you can push the single supporting pod into the tree to help get close and the extremely wide base gives good stability, but I believe the LG advantages easily trump this. The adjustable height provides versatility as well as stability. A ladder too tall for the tree is inefficient and with a TP you're stuck with a single height.

With the LG design you can go up either side of the ladder which means that when you can place it sideways to the tree you can cover twice as much area before repositioning the ladder. It also can be stored more easily, and if you need to take it anywhere you can get a much taller ladder into a much smaller truck bed or car space.

With a TP if you make a mistake in how you balanced the ladder and start to fall you're done, but usually if you're careless with a LG you can swing your weight to stop from falling.

Both types of ladders are designed to be stable on uneven ground but neither are stable when the ground is uneven left to right. This is where you have to be careful.

I don't believe that anyone without experience on both types of ladders can really offer complete advice on which one is best.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

h-man,
In recent years, I've seen some other folks, who'd long been proponents of the Tallman tripod-type ladders, coming over and endorsing the Little Giant. If they think it's better, I'm not inclined to argue with them.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

You can buy the Little Giant at Costco, if you want cheap!

Carla in Sac


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

I'm not sure that Cosco has the type 1 which is the lightest and cheapest they make and unless you weigh over maybe 200 pounds, plenty strong enough.

I have 2 ladders from Little Giant and 3 knock-offs I got at home depot. The ones that we mostly use are the LG's.

Here's the one I'm talking about.

http://www.littlegiantladder.com/little-giant/type-1.html


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

I have used this type ladder in construction, and they are really versatile.

I don't quite understand how they can be stable on rough ground with 4 contact points....can someone explain what I am missing?


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

They're fine on sloping ground which is usually how the ground is in orchards I manage although occasionally a flat stone or piece of wood under one of the legs can be helpful, but for me, this is only needed about once a month during the pruning periods when I'm on my ladder almost every working hour.

My clients are all in hilly areas- but mostly this just means sloping ground without a lot of pits and uneveness in more than one direction. As long as three legs have contact to the ground it's stable enough anyway.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

Sure, I can see that if the area was smoothish.

We are not so lucky, pretty lumpy.

I have found that on our variably hilly terrain that making the swing leg of the tripod ladder adjustable in height greatly improved it's stability and ease of setting.

I will borrow a buddies LG this spring and see how I like that. I can certainly see how it would allow more work at fewer position changes.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

Always best to base it on your own preference. In the end, such judgements are never unanimous and someone with just as much experience as me might prefer the traditional tri-pod- especially if they are only using it on their own property.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

  • Posted by mrclint z10SoCal Valley (My Page) on
    Wed, Oct 19, 11 at 15:24

"What sort of ladder do you use for picking?"

No ladders for me. None of my trees are allowed to get taller than I can reach standing on the ground. A tree that is large enough to require a ladder would be too hard to spray (if needed), prune, harvest or bird block. Besides dragging around a ladder is a huge pain, and falling from one would be a bigger pain.

Here is a link that might be useful: What Is Backyard Orchard Culture?


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

  • Posted by murky z8f pnw Portlan (My Page) on
    Wed, Oct 19, 11 at 18:58

mrclint,

The deer at my place agree with you.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

  • Posted by mrclint z10SoCal Valley (My Page) on
    Thu, Oct 20, 11 at 18:18

Murky,

Why do you allow deer to run around your place and force you into a dangerous and hard to maintain orcharding situation? That tree behind the ladder looks to be 20' high and not on level ground. A bushel of fruit isn't worth it, as you may not survive a fall from that height. I wouldn't want to fall off of a step stool - let alone a tall ladder.

Here is a link that might be useful: Each year there are more than 164,000 emergency room-treated injuries in the U.S. relating to ladders


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

Yes, I do think Murky could consider some changes in training style. I don't think that ladderless orchards are practical for every situation but no need to ever let trees get over 14' or so. I don't like the look of that peach tree either. Without roping the thing the next crop may split it right down the center.

As far as all those ladder injuries, I do have to wonder how many are candidates for the Darwin awards. If you are attentive there is no reason to go up a ladder that isn't properly balanced.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

Well, the discussion here has prompted me to use pickers from now on. I've used tripod ladders on orchards before and found them to be very stable on uneven ground and easy to set, so those would be my second choice. Little Giant and other heavy, four-legged types seem like a good choice where the ground is very firm and even.

I set and tested my stepladder firmly before climbing it, and was only four feet off the ground when it slipped. I was picking one second, and flying through the air the next, wondering why it was taking so long to reach the ground. It's because the ladder spun me through the air before throwing me to the side, so I landed on my chest. Fractured seven ribs, my shoulder blade in two places, and partially collapsed a lung. Of course the ladder must have slipped in just the wrong way, but it just takes once. I guess the point is that pretty or seemingly stable, if it's your unlucky day, isn't good enough. I'm just glad I didn't hit my head or break my back.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

  • Posted by mrclint z10SoCal Valley (My Page) on
    Thu, Oct 20, 11 at 19:28

Going up and down on a ladder is different than working, reaching, pulling, using pruners, etc while balancing yourself on one. An orchard floor might not be a solid or level enough surface for safe ladder use. Please be careful, stuff happens folks.

Here is a link that might be useful: Man impaled with garden shears through eye socket recovers


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

  • Posted by mrclint z10SoCal Valley (My Page) on
    Thu, Oct 20, 11 at 21:11

Close call nygardener. Glad you are OK now. :)

If I had a large tree that required a ladder in order to harvest, I would either top work it with bark grafts or cut it down and start over. I've had tall trees in the past and I could never go back now.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

NY Gardener, first you endorse the tri-pod and then explain why it is dangerous. Once it begins to tip it's all over. Think of a 3 legged stool compared to 4.

I have spent literally thousands of hours standing on a Little Giant ladder pruning fruit trees- usually on uneven ground. I've actually worn out 3 ladders now and am on my fourth. If the ladder is steady when you start up it will be steady when you reach the top- unless you are in mud.

The only time I've fallen was very close to the ground on a surface that was extremely uneven and I was careless to climb even though the ladder was unsteady. Thought so close to the ground- what could go wrong? Unfortunately even though I wasn't high up I fell right on one of the extended legs and did ache for a few weeks. That was a few years ago and not a mistake I'll repeat.

The only other close call I've had was when my LG was extended in straight position and the legs were standing on slick ice- more stupidity on my part.

So yes, accidents can happen on ladders and they can happen in cars or on the ball field. But you can minimize risk by being thoughtful and using the right equipment.

For many fruit growers there's good reason to have trees that require a ladder and you can't properly and efficiently prune with a pole saw.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

  • Posted by olpea zone 6 KS (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 21, 11 at 9:52

For my trees, I agree with Mr. Clint.

Early on I made the decision to keep a pedestrian orchard.

Pruning, training, and thinning was just too much work on a ladder.

Now I just prune anything I can't reach with my feet on the ground. I've used drastic measures like a chain saw to get taller trees down to a low height.

That said, there are reasons to have taller trees. Aesthetics and deer are common ones. Sometimes it can be extremely expensive (or impossible) to exclude deer. In other cases, large thoughtfully placed fruit trees may well add to the value of the property.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

I know it is extra work and risk, but I like big trees. Perhaps it's because I spent so much of my youth climbing around in them, and want my children or more likely grandchildren to be able to have the same experience. I also find them to be beautiful.

Risk I can manage....someday I may pay a price for that, but a completely risk free life would be mighty limiting if even possible.

I don't let everything get big. Certainly for production short is easier.

But I have to be honest...if it doesn't get above 8' in my book it's a bush not a tree. Nothing wrong with bushes.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

Many commercial orchards around here are on trees that require ladders. It is the most efficient way to grow apples without irrigation, I believe. A 12-14' apple tree is the best height for max productivity on free standing rootstocks. In a home orchard you certainly could grow them lower if you eliminated deer, coons, squirrels, etc. A tall trunk has it's advantages to stopping wildlife.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

  • Posted by mrclint z10SoCal Valley (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 21, 11 at 20:27

Here's a compact orchard - three or four trees in one hole - with what looks to be deer fencing around it:


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

I am located in northwest florida and most ladders seem to be shipped from California. Commercial orchards are not so common these days in my locales although that could change. I struck out at tractor supply and a local hardware store.
Anyone here have suggestions of where to find one locally?


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

OESCO is in Conway Mass but there is orchard country not so far from you. I expect they use picking ladders in orange orchards in your state. Google orchard supplies, Florida if you are looking for a tripod type.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

"harvestman 6 (My Page) on Sat, Nov 1, 14 at 8:17
OESCO is in Conway Mass but there is orchard country not so far from you. I expect they use picking ladders in orange orchards in your state. Google orchard supplies, Florida if you are looking for a tripod type "

Thanks for the suggestion. Major orange growing arears are a bit further south of me. I am looking for an orange county store near me. I will also try the next biggest city to my which mobile, AL.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

I like keeping my feet on the ground and have used this type of pole picker for picking high fruit. I like the ones with a notched metal rim and a canvas bag.

Here is a link that might be useful: fruit pickers


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

I find those pickers do a lot of damage to the spurs of apples.

I keep my trees at the size where I don't need more than a regular stepladder to reach the top. The one fall I had was when an old ladder broke and sent me down with it. A lesson always to check equipment.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

As I wrote in this thread last year, I think the Little Giant type ladder is best on uneven ground although it is debatable. The tripods are extremely light and easy to maneuver and when used properly shouldn't damage spurs because you don't lean them against the tree. A regular step ladder is not nearly as stable on uneven dirt as either the LG or tripod orchard ladder.

The orchard ladder is specifically designed for the purpose, but the LG is more versatile for other uses and I prefer it even when used exclusively for pruning fruit trees.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

Damaging spurs is with fruit pickers, not ladder.

HM..can you give me link on you LG please.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

Hi all, Since my trees are pruned to approx 9' tall, my husband bought me a Little Giant Ladder 6' Flip-N-Lite Type IA Platform Ladder from Walmart. I love the thing. It is perfect for resting a basket on the platform while you pick fruit and it is also large enough for my loppers as well. Love it and suggest the ladder for trees the size of mine. Since I am 5' 10" a six footer is all I need. Mrs. G


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

Even Wilt Chamberlain would need a ladder on some types of fruit trees to do pruning/picking, so vertically challenged folks like me depend on the stout fiberglass ladders, with muddy conditions being handled with a couple 1" X 6" X 3' boards beneath the ladder feet, and wooden shims used below individual ladder feet to get the ladder safely leveled. The shims are a 2 pc. assy. using a pc. of 5/4" X 6" X 1 foot.....screwed down to a pc. of 2" X 6" X 1 foot. They are placed in line and overlapped at 6" (of the available length of 12")where the "fat intersection" gets 4 coated 2-1/2" dry wall screws. That way, there is a 6" long area of shim at 1" thickness, a 6" long area at 1-1/2" thickness, and a 6" long area in the middle at 2-1/2" thickness. Depending how sloping/low/high each area below the 4 feet may be, I can normalize most crooked areas. Anything steeper than that..., well a pc. of 4" X 6" X one foot can be laid down in a low spot, and if still too low, a 2 foot long pc. of 2" X 6" can be stretched across the top of the 4 X 6 with one end of the 2 footer on the block and the other end on the higher sloped ground .....Well, it is just childhood building blocks for big kids. If I am going to be up on a ladder for a long time grafting, I want to be focused on grafting- not balancing on a wobbly/crooked/gradually sinking ladder.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

Konrad, this is the type I recommend if you aren't spending half of your working days on a ladder. It's half the price of the model I use but should last a lifetime for non-commercial use. My assistant uses one. It is as light as any they make.

I assume there are Canadian sources for this ladder if LG doesn't ship there for free as they do here.

Coping, yes, if you go to the effort I can see how you could rig up any step ladder to function in muddy uneven conditions. Even with the LG a complicated slope can require a flat rock or piece of wood to make it really stable but an even slope is easy to adjust to.

The only time I've fallen off one is when leaning backwards or when I failed to stabelize it on an extremely uneven surface because of impatience. Oh, and also because of an unobserved rat hole that collapsed on me. Best to test stability before going up any ladder.

Here is a link that might be useful: alta one ladder


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

Thank you HM!

I'm mostly on a hill and use a stepladder,..works better on the up/down slope then side ways, the 3 leg ladder with the two legs VERY wide might work better?


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

I have the HD version of the LittleGiant ladders and find them very heavy but they work well for construction type stuff mine are the 22'

For the garden I have an older 8-10 foot tripod style ladder that I love. We are on a gentle hillside so there is always a slope to deal with plus my dad loved having the tallest ________ tree in the area.

I am not allowing any fruit tree to get taller than I can winter prune from the ground and summer pick from higher than the second step for a few of the trees (mostly because those trees are also for shade) but am keeping most of the trees so they are picked from the ground only.

Same thing, I am not selling fruit commercially and am not getting younger each year.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

"harvestman 6 (My Page) on Sat, Nov 1, 14 at 8:17
OESCO is in Conway Mass but there is orchard country not so far from you. I expect they use picking ladders in orange orchards in your state. Google orchard supplies, Florida if you are looking for a tripod type "

Thanks for the suggestion. Major orange growing arears are a bit further south of me by several hundred miles. I am looking for an orange county store near me. I will also try the next biggest city to me which is mobile, AL.

This post was edited by barnetmill on Sun, Nov 2, 14 at 0:09


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

Kippy, I think you would find the one I recommend easier to move around, the heavier models are too heavy for me also, except the shortest model. I do think the LGs are safer than the tripods if both are used equally carefully, but I don't know that for a fact. I find the tripods less predictable and 4 legs tend to be more stable than 3. But the wide spread of the two legs on an orchard ladder may make up for this- I don't know.

The LGs definitely help to prune more quickly, though, because you can walk up and down both sides of the ladder, often allowing greater access to the tree between having to move the ladder. That's much more important to me than most other people because I do a crazy amount of pruning. I should probably learn to walk on stilts, actually.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

There are those construction stilts that painters and carpenters use to reach ceilings. It's not a dumb idea.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

Itilton- The aluminum stilts which accommodate drywallers and circus actors may be a go-to set-up for slim, young folks with great knees, but the stilts' leveraged stress on already limited-duty knees makes them unappealing to old folks who already have enough aches.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

I'm 62, but my knees still seem good even though I'm on my feet all working day (got a little plantar faciitus though, which ladders are hell on). I've read of stilts being used for pruning trees in Europe- I can't take credit for that idea. My problem with it is I need to go up and down while pruning- I need elevator stilts.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

HM
Perhaps at your level of HUGE amount of pruning, ...this might be the next step.

Here is a link that might be useful: platforms


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

At my volume of work and at my age in a few years, perhaps. Moving a ladder around is part of my work out- need that! Not just to keep healthy, but more, just to try to keep sane.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

My orchard is mostly sand, so ladder legs just sink in. It is also very steep. At a garage sale I picked up an above-ground swimming pool ladder that is two ladders connected in an A-shape and which have flat-shaped bases to the legs. It isn't easily storable, but my orchard is out of sight of any neighbors, so I just leave it out there. I have seen them for free on Craigslist several times. They wouldn't be tall enough for large trees, but work on semidwarves. I think it also has a safety railing along the sides, but I can't remember for sure. Northwoodswis


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Northwoods, I can't imagine a soil so sandy that it wouldn't support a step ladder, I think you could set up one on the beach though I've never tried. Never on the 100's of sites I've been to over the years have I been unable in any weather to set up a LG step ladder in a manner that easily supports my weight.

You must need to water and fertilize a lot.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

  • Posted by murky z8f pnw Portlan (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 3, 14 at 19:27

OK, this reply is only 3 years late, and I know it is a bit tangential but:

"...Yes, I do think Murky could consider some changes in training style. I don't think that ladderless orchards are practical for every situation but no need to ever let trees get over 14' or so. I don't like the look of that peach tree either. Without roping the thing the next crop may split it right down the center..."

These trees came with the house, purchased in 2010. The previous owners did nearly nothing correctly, including planting and caring for the orchard.

Half of the orchard was planted on top of the septic drain field, and for at least the first couple of years they were shaded by fir trees over 100' tall. Basically it was planted in the middle of the forest.

That plum tree has now been top-worked and shortened, although not very elegantly. That peach is now fruiting 6 or 7 kinds of European plums. Whatever peach variety it was before was hammered by peach leaf curl.

It still has that ugly crotch, but the plum trees I have since planted myself should be well into fruiting before that crotch causes serious problems, and it was a non-producing tree to begin with so not much at risk. I've harvested the plum variety called "peach" as well as Seneca, Yakima, and a couple of others from it already.

As for the deer, some day I look forward to fencing the whole property, but that is many years in the future. In the meantime I'll dabble with what I can. But for the most part I'm aiming to fruit in a range from about 6 feet to 10 or 12 feet from the ground to keep the foliage above browse level.


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RE: Fruit-picking ladder?

It is pretty sandy, probably sand from a railroad cut and/or a glacial drumlin, and requires constant watering. It is also so steep one could fall out of the garden. Hard to even keep a footing when standing on the ground near a tree. I had to put steps in the hillside just to get to the top of the garden. Makes it hard to put mulch, manure, etc., there. It put me in shoulder therapy after dragging several trailerloads of rotted manure up the steps with a little cart. That is why I bought some acreage away from home where I can drive a truck right up to the fruit trees. Hopefully things will do better out there. Northwoodswis


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