Re: pruning Q's for newly planted bare root fruit trees
The best source I have found for how to grow, train, and prune fruit trees is at the Virginia Cooperative Extension: http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/category/fruits.html
. Look at their guides for “Growing…” and “Pruning…”, and ignore the “Virginia”-specific information because the same rules will apply pretty much anywhere.
First thing you might want to know is that there are two basic fruit tree forms/ styles/systems:
One style is called “central leader” or “pyramid”. This most basic system is usually used for apples, pears, and cherries. The only pruning that is needed in early years is to maintain just one main trunk, also called the central leader, and every spring, prune back other branches that grow too long and vigorous so that it keeps looking sort of like a Christmas tree shape throughout the life of the tree. This style is especially suited to dwarf and semi-dwarf trees. I use this for all my dwarf trees. But if you do not have a dwarfing rootstock and want to keep the final height of the tree shorter so that all the fruit can be picked easily, then this might not be the style for you.
The other style is called “open center” or “vase”, and is just slightly more complicated. This system has a central trunk usually only about 2 feet high, at which point the central leader is cut off so that 3 or 4 of the strongest main branches are selected to spread out evenly and keep the overall structure of the tree in a vase or upside-down umbrella shape. These 3 or 4 branches will continue to grow upwards at similar rates and basically become 3 or 4 main leaders rather than having just one central leader. Pruning must be done to eliminate branches out of the center of the tree so that more sunlight can get in to all outer regions of the tree. This is the style used most for peaches and nectarines that would otherwise tend to grow way up high and extremely bushy.
I don’t know which system is preferred for persimmons, but I imagine you could allow the tree to grow in whatever manner it wants for a year or two, then decide which style you think will work best. Also if you expect such a tree to grow 30 feet high (I know nothing about persimmons), then the open center style might work out better.
Most buds that you see growing will form branches of varying lengths. If you are just starting out, you should leave all of them to grow through the end of the season so that you know what you are dealing with. One thing you should know early on is that you’ll want to train most of your branches to grow outwards almost horizontally rather than upwards. Branches that grow upwards are more prone to breakage later in life, and won’t fruit very much, while horizontal branches are very strong and will fruit much more. When new branches are just 3 or 4 inches long, you can easily attach clothespins or tie branches downwards to keep them growing closer to horizontal. After they grow for a few months, the wood stiffens and they won’t need to be held down anymore. But if you miss your chance, a lot of branches might grow upwards more than outwards, and then you’ll be at risk of minimal fruiting, or if they do fruit, breakage of limbs with heavy crop loads.
Yes, the tree will always want to grow upwards even if you cut the top of it off. The buds and branches that remain will forever want to grow upwards.
In any case, on a young tree, you will want to select roughly 4 branches that are growing as horizontal as possible to keep, and prune the others off. After the first year, follow the guidance from one of the websites listed.
So, choose a form that seems right for your trees, and train your young trees to stay with that form for the next 3 or 4 years, keeping your main branches closer to horizontal by whatever means necessary, and you'll be good to go.
Good luck and have fun with it.