What to do about secondary apple branches growing straight up?

jayco(5b NY)April 16, 2012

My 4-year-old GoldRush tree has some secondary branches which are growing straight up and through the center of the tree. What do I do about these? Should I prune them off, should I try to tie them down to make them go more horizontally, or something else?

Thanks for all advice. I am slowly getting a bit of a hang for this whole pruning/training thing and it seems as if there are endless decisions to be made. My tree never looks like the pictures I see, and there's always something about which I have no idea what to do. Quite interesting though!

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dmtaylor(5a (WI))

You've got the right idea. You can tie or weigh vertical branches down so that they will start fruiting in future years, or if it will be too much trouble doing that, or if there are too many verticals that will just shade the lower branches too much, you can just prune them off. You'll probably need to do the same thing each and every year for the life of the tree if you want to maximize fruiting wood and sunlight penetration into the lower portions of the tree.

In the end, it's your tree, and it's up to you how much effort you want to put into training it and pruning it into the form that you want, because the tree doesn't know what's best for you -- the tree basically only knows how to grow either up or out in a response to maximize sunlight to all its leaves, not to the fruit or fruit buds. It is therefore up to you, and not the tree, to shape the tree any way that you want, to maximize fruiting and sunlight penetration, or whatever your goal is. Prune that puppy into shape. Or not. It's your tree and your decision. And you can take pleasure in all of it, from stick to bud to fruit to stomach.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 11:21AM
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alan haigh

Without a photo it's hard to know what you need to do but Goldrush is a sure fruiter and everything spurs up and flowers. I wouldn't bother spreading uprights on it at all and if they are so vigorous just cut them out. If you are letting the branches grow and aren't heading them back the tree should rapidly calm down and make fruit. It produces adequate secondary wood without much manipulation and even the scaffolds needn't be spread.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 8:54PM
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jayco(5b NY)

Thank you both. Dmtaylor, I like your approach -- very reassuring.

Harvestman, one thing I don't understand: when you say "the scaffolds needn't be spread" -- do you mean you don't need to make sure they're at at a 60 -75 degree angle from the trunk; or do you mean the levels don't need to be far apart?

The vertical branch I'm worried about is about to hit a horizontal branch above it. So I know I've got to do something. I guess from what you're saying I should just cut it out.

Finally, I planted this tree as a whip in spring 2009. Do you think it would be okay this year to let it bear a couple of apples?

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 11:22PM
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alan haigh

For me, Goldrush tends to produce scaffolds of the proper angle without spreading so I don't have to bother. If your tree isn't doing that I wonder if it's properly labeled as this is a variety I manage quite a number of trees- mostly on MM111.

Yes, you should probably just cut it out.

If the tree has established well you should be able to let it fruit but it depends on the relative vigor and rootstock of the tree- not just it's age.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 5:21AM
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jayco(5b NY)


I got the tree from Adams County, and certainly hope it's actually Goldrush.

Most of the scaffolds are indeed at the correct angle. There are a few small ones that I've spread slightly.

I'm sure I've been doing some things unnecessarily. This is the first apple tree I'm growing myself I am undoubtedly hovering over it. But I've been learning a lot.

The tree is doing well and is quite large. Letting it produce a few fruits would at least tell me for certain if it's the correct variety.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 8:32AM
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alan haigh

Adam's should be reliable. If most angles are forming they way you want I wouldn't worry about it. To me, Goldrush is as close to a self-training tree as I grow. This means I only prune to make room for max light and air and I don't have to prune much to accomplish it.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 9:21AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Let that tree produce, if its already quite large it must be happy.


    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 7:17PM
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jayco(5b NY)

I hope so! With all the doting I do, it oughta be.

But, I'm speaking in ignorance since I don't know what an average tree its age looks like. But it's probably about 9 feet tall on MM111.

And thanks, Harvestman, for your good advice. I am going to -- mostly -- leave it alone now.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 9:07PM
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