Advice on 2nd year Honeycrisp please!

Lisa.HFebruary 3, 2013

Hello. I'm in Central Kentucky and I planted my very first 3 apple trees last Spring (dwarf supreme from Stark Bros - Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith) and besides having to replace the GS (free from Stark due to heading cut not healing well and rotting) they have done well. I have pruned them back to what I think will be good scaffold branches as I think I was supposed to do (again, very new at this!) and I've noticed what I believe are fruit spurs on the Honeycrisp already. My question is, if it blooms and tries to grow apples this young, should I let it? Or should I pinch off the blooms or prune off the spurs altogether? Obviously, I would love to get a few apples this soon, but would it be bad for the tree overall? I've attached a picture of the tree right now after pruning, overall only about 4' tall. I'll add another post of a closer image of what I believe are the spurs. Thanks in advance for any advice!

This post was edited by Lisa.H on Sun, Feb 3, 13 at 15:07

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The close-up of what I believe to be fruit spurs. Are they?

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 3:02PM
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andrew_swmo(6 SW MO)

I would be surprised if you get any fruits from your Honeycrisp this year. Mine is dwarf from Stark Bros and has not grown much since it was planted about three years ago. Honeycrisp is a slow growing tree and I hope that your tree is either semi dwarf or standard. I got at least one flower on mine last year but no fruits. I believe that it was in bloom at the same time as my GoldRush, which gave me lots of fruits. I'll leave it for the more experienced growers to give you a better advice but I am considering top working my Honeycrisp tree.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 3:34PM
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Mine is dwarf also. It seemed to put on quite a bit of growth this past year, probably close to 2' in height, although not near what the Golden Delicious did. Most of the growth was on vigorous shoots with narrow crotch angles that would've been competing with my central leader, so they had to go. I headed off the central leader to try to encourage more scaffold branches to shoot out with more desirable crotch angles. We'll see, I suppose. If yours had tried to produce fruit that young would you have let it? Have you let other varieties fruit this young? Does it have any detrimental effect? As you can tell, I am trying to remain optimistic despite the experience you have had with this tree.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 4:08PM
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andrew_swmo(6 SW MO)

I would discourage you from allowing the tree to fruit this year. It is better for a young tree to use its energy for more growth. Usually, when a tree starts to produce fruit, this slows its growth. I would not cut the fruit spurs. If any fruits are developed, I'll just cut them once they can be seen. I would also think that the fruit may drop on its own as the tree many not be ready for any fruits this year. Again, I am not an expert and there are others on this forum who can give you a better advice.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 4:57PM
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dmtaylor(5a (WI))

Those do kind of look like fruit spurs. If I were you, I would leave all the spurs alone, but then right after the fruit begins to grow (assuming some does), I would remove all but one or two fruits. Any fruiting will stunt the growth of your tree somewhat, but the tree should be able to handle one or two just so you can get a taste this year. In subsequent years you can allow a few more to grow, but don't leave them all on or it will stunt the tree. I would also tip back the top of the tree, removing about half of the last season's growth -- this will help the tree to branch out more. Honeycrisp likes to grow upwards more than outwards so the top needs to be cut back every winter until the branches are well established -- this might take a good 3 years or so.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 6:11PM
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dmtaylor, thanks for the advice. I have already cut probably 8-10" or so new growth from the top. You think I need to cut back more?

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 6:32PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Lisa, I would not recommend taking any more off the top. You've done a nice job of drop crotch pruning to a central leader. Apple trees don't need excessive pruning. Wait until you get more lateral branches up on the top, then drop crotch prune to a central leader, again, if you feel you need to take the height down. Yes, those are fruiting spurs, but as Andrew mentioned, you probably won't get any fruit this season. You might get blooms, but probably will not get fruit set. If you do, you can always remove most of the fruit and let the tree gain another year's growth and root development.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 9:09PM
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andrew_swmo(6 SW MO)

How about removing the central leader and pruning the tree to grow as open center? I would assume that this will allow for more lateral growth. Lisa, I wonder how thick is the trunk of the tree? Would the trunk get thicker faster if the tree is pruned vase shape?

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 11:02PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

Actually, I like what you did with the pruning, ...that's how I do it with central leader, I'm no pro but you did fine I think, taking that nasty crutch out is marvelous!

I would let them flower and set fruit, if any? They might abort, but when marble size, pinch, or cut all except one per cluster.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 11:24PM
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alan haigh

Even a dwarf needs to be at least an inch in diameter before you should let it produce a single fruit in my opinion. I have tons of experience, but unfortunately not with fully dwarfing rootstock (M9). I manage a lot of M26, however, which are on the vigorous side of dwarf and they can runt out if they are allowed to produce when still very small.

I wouldn't remove the fruit- I'd remove the flowers.

Where you top, which isn't usually necessary with a fully dwarfing tree as I understand it, is where you want to produce your second tier of branches. I'd say 2' above last branch on first tier. However this kind of structure isn't needed for dwarfs and reading commercial guidelines it seems best method is only removing oversized branches- more than half the diameter of trunk at point of attachment. Very little pruning is needed for dwarfs and almost none while training. Any pruning should be done in summer with the thumb and finger to steer growth without setting tree back.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 5:43AM
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