HELP Prunniung Question

sharky300(7)February 12, 2013

Hi All,

I hope this subject is not a complete "re-do". I tried to search but did not see this exact scenerio...

I purchaced 2 apple tree's this past november and planted them... They are suppose to be a 2-3 years old. I have been reading about prunning and shaping and understand tha main concept of the central leader and coming off of that... The problem is that one of my trees has already been shaped incorrectly (or different) It comes up about 36" and has three main branches that "Y" out from one spot. If you turned it upside down it would look like a tri-pod. each of those branches are anothe three feet long...
My question is can I work with this as it is, or do I need to cut two of the branches out and try to establish a "Central leader??

Sorry for the long post- Thanks for any help!!!


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alan haigh

You can train it as an open center with the branches you have but I would start over even if this was my ultimate shape intention. Certainly if you want to "permanently" train it as central leader you will have to start over- maybe completely with a new upright straight from the trunk if you want a straight tree.

It will hurt to remove the branches but won't set back the tree much at all. This year most growth will probably be roots any way.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 5:08PM
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Thanks for the response havestman... Curious why you say you would start over if you were training as an "open" center? Forgive my ignorance, I am just new to all of this.

I do not think I have a preference either way as far a central leader vs. other options. I don't know what other options there are, and the central leader is all I find when searching how to do it.

Is there a good book or website I can use as a reference?

Thanks Again!!!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 5:21PM
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Pick the straightest, most upright branch for the central leader. Cut the other two off. Top the branch that you left near where you want your first lateral branches to grow.
That should do it. Do it now, don't wait until you have a hugh tripod!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 5:58PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i dont understand these answers ...

tree peeps want a 40 foot tall.. straight tree ... with an 8 to 10 foot trunk ... good for them ..

peeps who want to harvest fruit ... want a short squat tree because they dont want to dangle 40 feet in the air to pick the fruit ...

it seems to me.. that you are confusing tree theory with fruit theory ...

as to an open center.. apples ripen in the sun.. tree canopies are dark inside..

if you want to increase your crop.. you open the center.. so sun gets inside.. and more apples will ripen ...

my best advice.. if there is an orchard anywhere near you.. go look at how they make really ugly trees out of production trees.. it has absolutely NOTHING to do with a single central leader.. nor height.. nor anything else ... its all about maximizing crop ... see link ..

its a real quandary for a homeowner ... about how ugly a tree they want in the yard.. lol ...

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 6:38PM
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alan haigh

I won't take Ken's bait. So many Ken's on the internet. Can't change that.

Here's the deal. I would start a new tree because even when I'm training a tree to open center it serves me better to start it as a central leader tree. If it's a vigorous apple variety on a free standing rootstock (say M7 or M111) this allows me to choose branches where I want them of the thickness I want (branches less than half the diameter of the trunk at their point of attachment to trunk). This lower ratio encourages much earlier fruiting and a stronger union. Also with a central leader I have a place to push against when placing a spreader to get the branch angle I want.

A central leader shape is what is recommended by most University guidelines for apple and pears because research shows it more efficiently uses light for maximum fruit production per acre. In a home orchard, open center works OK.

For making a central leader- If one of the existing branches can be bent and staked close enough to vertical then it's fine to keep it.

If the variety is not vigrorous- something early fruiting such as Goldrush, Ark Black, Braebern, Empire, etc than branch ratio isn't too important as long as branches don't have inverted bark and don't starve out the trunk above it which closely located oversized branches often do.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 9:16PM
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WOW, thanks for ALL of the info... It has really given me a lot of insite, and thoughts. I am probably somewhere in the middle- I am not all that concerned with the asthetic's of the tree's, just want strong, healthy structure. Also not overly concerned with "maximum" output, as this is just for my home and family.
I am just looking for the best way to get the trees started so there won't be a lot of problems down the road, and some good fruit to eat every year... If I can make them eaier to pick, all the better.

The two varietes I have are FUJI and PINK LADY - Not sure about the root stock.

Thanks again to everyone, I am sure I will have many more questions as time goes on!!!


    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 2:06PM
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alan haigh

Pink Lady is easy to manage and lives to fruit (fruits young- not too vigorous)- Fuji, a bit of a vegetative nightmare where ratio can be very important unless you have lots of space and patience. Unless it's on something as or less vigorous as M26.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 4:58PM
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