In our yard we have a Santa Rosa plum tree. Named for its birthplace, this plum variety was bred in 1906 by the famed California horticulturist Luther Burbank in his Santa Rosa plant research center. Our plum tree is more than two stories tall so there is a good amount of tasty fruit beyond my standing reach. I prefer to keep two feet on the ground. I recently developed a special affinity for maintaining solid contact with the earth since I fell off a twenty-foot ladder last year. That fall resulted in a broken lumbar disc, a dislocated finger and few days of hospitalization.
However, having two opposable thumbs and shed full of miscellaneous hardware I still am able to harvest these egg-sized plums. Years ago I read or heard about using a modified coffee can to collect tree fruit. With tin snips I cut a V-shaped slice into one side of a coffee can. I drilled a couple of holes to accommodate a U-bolt into the opposite side of the can. The cut is rather jagged and sharp which makes it function all the better.
I happen to have an old adjustable-length pole saw which is used to trim tree branches. I removed the curved blade and replaced it with a coffee can which I bolted on with a U-bolt. If you don't happen to have a U-bolt, any method to attach the can to the pole will suffice as long as it's secure and won't wiggle or wobble. A couple of slot slices into the can and a hose clamp would probably work too.
By lifting the can toward a plum and carefully catching the plum in the tapered notch, the can's edge slices through the stem and deposits the fruit neatly into the can. Practically any light-weight and rigid pole and coffee can combination would probably work to collect plums, pears, apples and other tree fruit. My pole and plum catcher contraption extends to about twelve feet which is especially handy.
Inevitably, the pole and coffee can knocks ripe fruit off the tree. So it helps to enlist an assistant during the harvesting operation to catch the falling fruit or at least to retrieve it before it rolls too far.
I considered but rejected the idea of attaching a cloth bag to the bottom of the can to gather more fruit at once. That might work but the weight probably would make maneuvering the pole and can between the tree branches rather unwieldy.
This fruit collecting device not only is safer than climbing into the tree, it does away with the need to lift and reposition a ladder.
The working end: a V-shaped notch catches the fruit and cuts the stems.
A U-bolt holds the coffee can tightly in place. Note the adjustable pole.
Stalking a plum.
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