Apples bending limbs down

daemon2525(5)June 27, 2013

I have some pretty small dwarf apples in 2nd and 3rd leaf that set very well. Because they were so small , I thinned them to as few as 10 apples per tree. However, the little limbs are So small that the golf ball size apples are bending them to the shape of a fishhook.

Will this hurt the tree? Will the limbs be permanently bent?

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Yes they'll be permanently bent unless you support them now or train them back up later. If they are that bent already there are still probably too many apples on the tree. Bent now and they'll likely be broken later unless you thin more or support.

Also a tree bent over and over-cropped at a young age risks being permanently stunted, they call it runting out. A tree that has runted out is very difficult to get growing again even with all apples removed.

Below is a table that gives what I'd consider the max number of fruits to leave by trunk diameter. This is for commercial growers. Their trees would be supported and they are more concerned about yield than eating quality, that's why I say max.

Here is a link that might be useful: apple crop load by tree diameter and bearing habit

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 11:32AM
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I guess that I did not explain it well. I have a 1.5 inch diameter trunk. up high on the tree, I have less than 1/4 inch twigs about 8 inches long. With a single apple on that twig bends it down. The tree trunk is not bending. So I could have only one apple on the whole tree and still have the problem that I am trying to describe.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 11:46AM
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The twigs will still be permanently bent if you leave those apples on. Or break off. I'd remove the apples from those twigs.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 1:32PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

Your descrition made me think of my 2nd leaf Goldrush on G11/MM111 interstem rootstock. I probably did too much branch bending on this one last year. Since it was already bent close to horizontal when the fruit formed, it didn't have anywhere to go but lower...

An interesting question is where do you measure the trunk diameter? Mine is just over 1" at the ground, increases to over 1.25" at the interstem, and is only .75" above it. I checked online and there seem to be a variety of answers (30cm, breast height, 1.5M, etc).

1.25" diameter equates to 7.9 cm^2 and 31-47 apples, obviously too many for this tree.

.75" diameter equates to 2.8 cm^2 and 11-17 apples. I'm guessing that this is the better value to use here.

I thinned it pretty well, but only 1-2 apples near the end of a long branch can really bend it down. My tree currently has 15 apples (10 bagged), so it is right in that range. Soon enough, I may need to tie it up, instead of down.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 5:21PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

That's a really small tree with limited foliage. I'd say even 10 apples may be too much. My tree gives really small fruit and 10 might be OK. In your climate they should be bigger.

Just my opinion but what your tree needs is more backbone. It's too long and leggy to the point you've got to support all the fruit. To cure that you've got to head things back, difficult with all that fruit on there.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 7:42PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

I'm no apple expert! We have inherited a couple older trees infested with Fire Blight, and we have removed as much as we can off of them. When they go dormant, we'll really attack the big one, and spray and all that. The little one will be replaced.

I am a vineyard expert, and the same rule applies. Do NOT let your vine or tree produce fruit until it's roots are established deep and it's trunk is fat! It kills to pinch off perfectly good fruit, but the reason anything has fruit is to propagate it's kind. It will put all it's growing energy into the fruit... kinda like a mom who neglects her teeth so her kids can have new shoes...

I understand you want to taste those apples, but remove the fruit and let the tree trunk grow fat.. 3 or 4 years... THEN your tree will be able to support it's fruit. Make sense?


    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 9:33PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


Commercial growers using slender spindle and other supported systems are cropping the second leaf. It's not that the trees growth will be stunted, although that can happen...called runting out, it's more about supporting the fruit.

If one has a trellis and system for support and training, a tree can be moderately cropped at a young age. In fact that's one way to control vigor in high density apples.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 9:43PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

Thanks- I'm thinking that maybe I should remove a few of the apples from the lowest hanging branches to prevent breakage and give the tree a bit more vigor to more side branches and leaves.

I don't want to add to much vigor though, as I want to keep the tree in a pretty small space. I've attached another photo, as you can't see it in the above picture but on the left there is another tree (1st leaf Court Pendu Plat on G16) about 5' away. To the right (just past the stones) is one of the main pathways through the yard.

One of the branches I'm loath to remove fruit from is where I experimented with hand pollination in the effort to breed apples. I know it's not likely that I'll get anything great, but I wanted to try it. I marked several Goldrush branches (on this tree and another) as having received Pitmaston Pineapple and Hudson's Golden Gem pollen (different color twisters).

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 9:55PM
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