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Pruning for tall spindle trees in year two

Posted by Katie Selbee 
Pruning for tall spindle trees in year two
January 03, 2017 12:52PM
Hello! I'm wondering if anyone has experience in pruning tall spindle whips that are just entering year two. When we set out to establish a 1/2 acre tall spindle orchard, we didn't realize Maxcel is generally sprayed on unpruned non-feathered whips to get them to feather (no heading required)--I'm wondering how feathering could be achieved organically. I've done pruning for espalier systems (heading just before each wire of the trellis) but my understanding is that tall spindle trees should be treated a bit differently. Should we give them another year of growth before heading, perhaps? They were grafted spring 2016 and the central leaders have reached a height of 2' to 4'. Any advice would be appreciated!

Katie
Twin Island Cider
Pender Island, BC
Re: Pruning for tall spindle trees in year two
January 04, 2017 06:47PM
How about some pure speculation? Based an a wee bit of knowledge as regards tree response!

The intent with a high density planting is to kick in economic returns as soon as possible. Year two marks this beginning albeit lightly. This premise is based entirely on not steering the dwarf tree towards vegetative response. The foremost strategy keys to not heading the tree. As in EVER. Let the leader shoot for the sky while bending laterals into production. Eventually the leader will bow to the dictates of the root, this at 10 to 12 feet high in the typical tall spindle system. Tying down any upstarts is definitely called for at this point. I did not know about a hormonal spray to induce feathers without making a heading cut. What a unsurprising twist on organic desires!

I would head half the trees and learn something. You sound up on the basics of the crow's foot response. The "cost" here will be another year of wood growth in lieu of early production. This will be a drawback on vigorous ground, given the tight spacing and thus need for fruiting to calm lateral growth.

Hopefully someone doing a similar system can give you actual insight.

Lost Nation Orchard
Zone 4b in New Hampshire



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/04/2017 07:00PM by Michael Phillips.
Re: Pruning for tall spindle trees in year two
January 04, 2017 10:38PM
Thanks Michael! Experimenting seems the way to go--we're not in a huge rush for these apples as we have other established trees and local sources. And if it comes to it, we can always resort to espalier style as we've only planted out about 100 so far--the rest are awaiting transplant in our nursery beds. I like the idea of giving some another year unpruned and seeing if any feathering naturally occurs. Your advice and organic commiseration are appreciated!
Re: Pruning for tall spindle trees in year two
March 04, 2017 10:46AM
Just an update in case anyone comes across this thread with the same same question, I found a very interesting article on notching--an old technique that involves taking a 2 mm cut out of the bark and cambium just above a dormant/green tip bud to initiate branching. While time consuming, apparently it can potentially be more effective than spraying branching hormones! Here's the research paper: [journal.ashspublications.org] . The only downside I can see would be in regions where certain diseases inoculate in the spring, and that many cuts on a second year whip would increase the chances of disease. As far as I know, though, in my region canker (our main problem) spreads and inoculates in late fall.
From other sources I've found online, notching is practiced in some commercial high density orchards as a solution to blind wood (on first and second year wood only.) I'll definitely be trying this in hopes that I won't have to set my trees back a year by heading--hopefully with similar results to what they had in the article!

Katie
Twin Island Cider
Pender Island, BC
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