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Maintaining small trees on non-dwarfing rootstocks

Watering in tree

Although Mark and I are excited about the possibilities of a high-density apple planting, we're also well aware of all of the disadvantages of dwarfing rootstocks.  So we're hedging our bets with three apples on M111, trained using similar methods to those on Bud9.

In case you're not a rootstock geek, M111 is a rootstock that makes a semi-dwarf tree, generally reaching a spread of 14 to 20 feet, compared to 6 to 10 feet for Bud9.  I've had at least two apple growers tell me that they manage to keep semi-dwarf trees down to the size of a dwarf with careful pruning and training, giving them the benefits of a more copious root system without requiring the space of a typical semi-dwarf tree.  I hope I can do the same and can include early bearing in the list of dwarf-like properties of a miniaturized semi-dwarf.

Training a dwarf treeReality hit when the semi-dwarf trees showed up and required a lot more initial pruning than the dwarf trees did.  The latter had been trained in the nursery with a high density system in mind, so they had lots of little branches ("feathers") running up and down the trunk, but the former simply had two whorls of scaffolds a couple of feet apart.  I kept the bottom whorl (although shortening and training the branches down below horizontal), then whacked off the top to promote new branching along the trunk.

To keep this semi-scientific, I sprinkled the semi-dwarfs amid the dwarfs and was careful to include one variety that was duplicated on the two types of rootstock.  The experiment obviously won't give me scientific data good enough to print, but should help me decipher which system works best on our farm.  I'm excited to start playing with training in earnest once the spring growing season begins!

Our chicken waterer keeps care of a backyard flock of poultry streamlined and mess-free.


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Good job on removing the second scaffold whorl! I think I saw this tree in earlier pictures and there was no defined central leader. Looks much better now!

If you focus on the dominant central leader and tie down the scaffolds you'll be off to a great start. Once the scaffolds get to big you can renewal prune with a bevel cut.

Good Luck!

Comment by BSmith Mon Dec 10 12:00:10 2012
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Comment by Elizabeth Mon Dec 10 16:22:03 2012