Welcome! Log In Create A New Account

Advanced

Apple trees too tall

Posted by Philip Hopkins 
Apple trees too tall
January 25, 2018 06:14AM
I have 3 Fuji and 3 honeycrisp on mm111 rootstock planted 20' apart. The ground is not ladder friendly to put it lightly. The trees will be in their 6th leaf since planting and 16-18' tall. The honeycrisp in particular are still shooting skyward. Last year they produced a light crop that were looking pretty good before the bear got them. (Another topic entirely). I use only foliar nutrition and composted wood chips for fertilizer.
Question: is it possible to prune the trees to height of around 12' without severely impacting fruiting? If so, how should I do it and when? I wouldn't be too upset to lose some productivity this year as I have 75 other trees that should start producing. I just want to avoid long term injury.
Thanks
Philip Hopkins
Zone 6b
Re: Apple trees too tall
January 25, 2018 12:35PM
Philip Hopkins Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Question: is it possible to prune the trees to
> height of around 12' without severely impacting
> fruiting? If so, how should I do it and when?

Yes, that is what I do with my standard trees.
I just cut the leader by end winter, and every year, naturally, there are a few new vigorous shoots that need to be cut. Just normal maintenance.
Claude

Jolicoeur Orchard
Zone 4 in Quebec
Re: Apple trees too tall
January 25, 2018 09:52PM
How far back do you prune the leader? All the way to the nearest branch or just newer growth?
Thanks
Re: Apple trees too tall
January 25, 2018 10:39PM
Philip Hopkins Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> How far back do you prune the leader? All the way
> to the nearest branch or just newer growth?

When the tree reaches the height I want it, I simply cut any further vertical growth. It can be but it doesn't have to be at a branch junction.
The tree will send a sucker anyway from just under the cut - and you'll cut that sucker the following year.

Jolicoeur Orchard
Zone 4 in Quebec
Re: Apple trees too tall
January 26, 2018 08:15AM
Trees in different places show vigor to greater of lesser degrees, so let's keep that in mind. Personally, I like giving MM.111 trees more room for apical desires, and thus 14 to 16 foot range describes the height of my trees on average. These are trained to a central leader with two scaffolds. Hugh Williams keeps his MM.111 trees closer to 12 feet in the Hudson Valley of New York by maintaining just the lower permanent scaffold. Regardless, we both manage the top portion of our trees according to the tenets of diameter-based pruning by removing a lateral (or at least stubbing it) when the branch diameter gets to be half the diameter of the leader. The leader in turn can be rotated as well to a weaker shoot more than willing to engage in the apical dance. This brings up a key point: You must allow "higher height" some growing seasons so the dominant shoot in turn can develop laterals further down to provide that proper thinning cut the following season. There's a less fruitful path ahead in tree tops where all watersprout growth constantly gets removed annually to deliberately maintain a stated height. This is why I teach that leaving 10 to 15% of the weaker vertical response is critical to keeping a tree calm.

I consider pruning talk to be akin to Pandora's Box, by the way, almost impossible to contain once unleashed! Others can best build on these parameters from here. Different words for different folks can be ever so helpful in getting spatial concepts across.

Lost Nation Orchard
Zone 4b in New Hampshire



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/26/2018 10:18AM by Michael Phillips.
Re: Apple trees too tall
January 15, 2019 01:13AM
Good advice Michael, Thanks, there will never be an end to learning how to prune! I'm in the 6th year of pruning our 250 cider trees and one thing I have learned, each variety grows differently! Some insist on growing extremely long, skinny limbs, and LOTs of them, such as Golden Russet. Some want to grow straight up to the sky, nothing horizontal, such as Muscadet de Bernay and Harrison. Some produce millions of twigs and want to be dense, light-choking jungles - Stoke Red. Roxbury Russet want to be open center inspite of my efforts to coax a central leader. Others grow in a naturally beautiful shape, easy to manage and a joy to prune, such as Brown's apple, Dabinette, Collaos Kingston Black and Brown Snout. Honeycrisp produces a lot of large, heavy apples for us and the weight can mean broken branches so I get very aggressive with height and width control. I have also learned not to worry so much about the huge vertical limbs (Muscadet de Bernay, Harrison, Harry Masters Jersey, Fauxwhelp, Ellis bitter) when they have lots of flower buds, the weight of the apples will bring those limbs right down to near horizontal so I head them to control the amount of fruit that will set next year. I always leave a weak small vertical at the top of the tree. I'm sure there are many who would disagree with how I prune but the trees are not disappointing us, our harvest almost doubled in 2018 from the previous year. Philip (OP) If I were you I would go ahead and cut the top of that honey crisp, hopefully just above a bud or weak small vertical limb that can be happy taking over as the leader!

VistaRidge orchard, Quilcene, WA zone 8a est. 2012
235 Cider and heritage apple trees, 72 varieties,
Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.

Click here to login