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 Another question on pruning 2 yr old grafted apple trees 
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Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 3:27 pm
Posts: 3
Post Another question on pruning 2 yr old grafted apple trees
Hi gang,

Sorry I don't have any pics at the moment, but I have several dozen apple varieties that I grafted myself onto M7 rootstocks back in spring of 2013. They are all in pots (with bamboo support sticks) and range in height from 4-7 feet tall. I've purposely let them grow into tall whips, but I plan to cut them back this winter to a uniform height to force out lateral branches. I prefer open center (vase shaped) trees rather than central leader.

My question is: what height is recommended to cut them back to? I have 2-3 trees that have naturally started their laterals already so for those I'm pretty set on where to prune back to. But for the others I'd like to cut back to a uniform height since these trees will be planted in my orchard a little over a year from now. I've read online that about 32" above ground level is about right. Anyone disagree? What other considerations are there? Also how many lateral branches should I aim for? And if I want more laterals, do I keep pruning back the existing laterals to force new ones from the main trunk?

Thanks in advance for any advice/suggestions you have.

Dan M

Thu Sep 25, 2014 4:13 pm

Joined: Sat Aug 11, 2012 5:56 pm
Posts: 16
Post Re: Another question on pruning 2 yr old grafted apple trees
This can be pretty opinionated, but here's mine :P
Figure out the lowest level you want branches - if there are no obstacles, as low as 3ft may be great. But if you want to mow/graze/trellis around it, you may be better off at 5 or 6 ft.
From 3 ft, I would train out 2 branches at the lowest level, 2 more 2-3 feet up, and then 2 more 2-3 up from that.
From 5-6 ft, I would usually cut this down to 2 level but still keep 4-6 branches total.
When you cut the center, you will need to do some training to keep young branches from shooting up near the trunk.
If something doesn't have laterals yet, just let it live a little until you see them emerge...

Thu Sep 25, 2014 7:33 pm

Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 10:57 am
Posts: 1396
Location: Portland, OR
Post Re: Another question on pruning 2 yr old grafted apple trees
"This can be pretty opinionated, but here's mine :P"
That's a great way to say it.

I just look at the tree and see what seems right for it. Widely spaced branches and angles. NOthing clogged in the middle of the tree, fitting the space, no duplication, etc.
John S

Fri Sep 26, 2014 8:31 pm

Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1182
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: Another question on pruning 2 yr old grafted apple trees
Hi Dan, thought I’d let a couple other opinions emerge before basically concurring with you… To achieve the ‘open vase’ (which is my preference too), you’ve got it, cut off the vertical growth above the highest desired branching height and allow the buds below to emerge as ‘branches.’ 32 inches would place your branches ‘below’ that, so a cut at 36 inches would likely work well. I like the open vase so as to step up and into the middle of the trees; it also allows more even sunlight penetration and air circulation.

As the ‘branches’ sprout, watch that no ‘one branch’ becomes dominant. Give them some time to grow, but if their growth isn’t fairly even, ‘tip pinch’ (pinch out) the fastest growing branch to allow more energy to feed the others (the pinched branch will usually ‘fork,’ which is often desired). Usually the vigor of the tree will determine the number of buds that push toward branches after the terminal bud’s cut on the trunk.

I wouldn’t do any limb-spreading the first year; just allow them to grow up. But the following year you’ll have to do some serious limb-spreading to open up ‘the vase.’ With heavy deer predation, I’ve always had to enclose my young trees with four steel posts wrapped in ‘chicken wire’ fencing from bottom to top. A definite hassle, but an excellent way to train four main branches, by tying them to the posts for a couple seasons … then eventually removing the posts and wire.

I’ve seen some ‘neat’ little ¾ X ¾ inch wood steaks with finishing nails inserted at each end with a sharp part ‘out.’ They’ve worked well for others when spreading those ‘first year limbs.’ I’d used notched steaks …but limbs first :roll:

As John mentioned, each tree is different, and will sometimes indicate what’s best for them. And as Eric led off with … this is opinionated.

Temperate Orchard Convservancy:

Sat Sep 27, 2014 9:12 am

Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 3:27 pm
Posts: 3
Post Re: Another question on pruning 2 yr old grafted apple trees
Excellent - thanks for the advice everyone!


Mon Sep 29, 2014 7:57 am
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