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 Post subject: Can I save this dwarf honeycrisp?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2012 9:48 pm 
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Here's a very neglected dwarf honeycrisp. It is about four years old and has never been pruned. It is spindly with a significant curve. It has started to produce a few apples.

Here are a few views:

Image
Image
Image

Should I prune the main branch or elswhere? If so, where?

Thanks!


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 Post subject: Re: Can I save this dwarf honeycrisp?
PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:15 am 
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Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2011 11:25 pm
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zachw wrote:
Here's a very neglected dwarf honeycrisp. It is about four years old and has never been pruned. It is spindly with a significant curve. It has started to produce a few apples. Should I prune the main branch or elswhere? If so, where?


Actually it looks in good shape. I like the way you're keeping sod from growing under the dripline.

I can't see the graft union. If it's not above the soil line, you need to pull the mulch back so it is exposed to air. This will keep the Honeycrisp scion from developing its own roots and becoming a full-sized tree.

The thing that stands out to me is that the tree ought to be staked. All dwarfs should be in their early years. The standard dwarfs on B9, M9, and probably M26 root stocks need support throughout their productive lives. A standard 10-foot length of one-inch galvanized electrical conduit would do nicely, driven four feet into the ground (if you can manage it) about a half-foot from the trunk on the windward side -- in your case on the side the tree leans toward.

Then you'll need to draw the upper part of the trunk over toward the stake, and, to hold it, you'll make "B" ties with a couple hanks of this:

  • http://www.groworganic.com/ag-tyes.html

I call this stuff chain. You twist it and thread it through itself. Then it untwists and latches to itself, creating a loose loop that won't loosen, tighten, or abrade the trunk.

The stake goes through one eye of the "B;" the trunk through the other. The stake eye can be as tight as you want. Leave the trunk eye loose so the tie doesn't girdle the trunk. These ties last indefinitely and can be loosened and repositioned year after year. You don't need a whole bunch, but, if you deal with a garden-supply outfit, you'll have to buy a whole bunch. Ask local orchardists and master gardeners to loan you some.

It's a young tree to be bearing very heavily. I'd thin the fruit down, after it sets, to just what I needed to taste this year. That way you'll get more vegetative growth for next year.

Likewise I'd clean up the trunk. This will cut back a lot on fruit set later, too. It looks like you have three nice branches about 18 inches above the soil. They may be a little low, but I'd keep them. You may need some 18-inch rabbit fence next winter, though. If there's a nice little fourth branch at about the same height but heading away from the trunk in a different direction, I'd keep it, too. Then you have some nice branches started at about four feet. I'd pick three or four close together vertically on the trunk and headed in different directions radially. Then I'd prune away everything on the trunk in between, including that nice little group of three at about two feet. You'd wind up with two tiers about 30 inches apart. Other than that, the leader looks good. If it takes off this summer (and it probably will), I'd pinch it back. It's not going anywhere but up, and it's probably close to as high as you want it to be. If you develop a little witches broom up there, that will set a few apples next year (and thereafter) and keep vegetative growth from there to a minimum.

Don't tarry. This needs to be done before bud break so the tree channels its energy where you want it to.

Next year you'll need to pinch back the upper tier so it doesn't overgrow the lower tier.

Nice pix, BTW.

53° — Wind S 7 mph


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 Post subject: Re: Can I save this dwarf honeycrisp?
PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2012 4:39 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 13, 2012 9:22 pm
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Wow, that's a lot a great info. Yes, the graft is above the soil. Wife & I had a disagreement about whether it should be staked (she talked to a gardening pro who said not to stake, but in fairness she might not have specified that it is a dwarf). Certainly it will look a lot nicer when it is standing erect.

The mulch and "urbanite" was done last fall (we had 5 yards of compost dumped in our driveway before we realized how much it was) Wife is happy that you confirmed how large to make the circle.

I'm not real concerned about fruit at this point. Will follow your advice and post pics in the fall.

Any reason to use galvanized conduit instead of pvc pipe (which I already have a bunch of extra)?

Thanks again Chuck!

zach (who is unfortunately spoiled by good honeycrisps and no longer enjoys many other varieties of apple!)


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 Post subject: Re: Can I save this dwarf honeycrisp?
PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 10:23 pm 
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Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2011 11:25 pm
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zachw wrote:
She talked to a gardening pro who said not to stake, but in fairness she might not have specified that it is a dwarf. Certainly it will look a lot nicer when it is standing erect.


Some dwarfs do not require staking. It depends on the root stock. No need to try to straighten it at ground level. The older wood will be brittle. Just pull the upper part of the trunk toward vertical by tying it to the stake.

zachw wrote:
Any reason to use galvanized conduit instead of pvc pipe?


PVC isn't stiff enough. Also, it will splinter when you try to drive it. Rent or borrow a metal-post driver for the conduit unless you are handy with a 10-lb sledge hammer. Have fun!

47° — Wind N 3 mph


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 Post subject: Re: Can I save this dwarf honeycrisp?
PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2012 10:19 am 
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Joined: Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:12 pm
Posts: 58
I have similar issues with my 5-year-old Honeycrisp tree -- it prefers to grow up really tall without wanting to bush out much. However, I have a lot more scaffold branches on my tree (albeit fairly short ones), and I think that is because I prune the top off the tree each year, a.k.a., heading back. Lopping the top off the tree every spring stimulates competition amongst the remaining buds to develop a new central leader, and gives more sunlight to the lower branches so that they can grow farther outwards. Then once you have a whorl of 5 or 6 new branches coming out the top of the tree, you can select the highest most vigorous one to grow vertical to become the new central leader, and train all other branches down towards a horizontal position so that they become new scaffolds.

You can allow the central trunk of the tree to fruit a little bit, but if it happens too high, the weight of the apples can bend your tree over a lot. Nothing wrong with bending except it might shade one side of your tree, and it makes for a bit of a hokey looking tree IMHO. I staked my tree to keep it more vertical. Otherwise it too wanted to lean to one side a little too much (toward the southern sun, actually, it seems).

What I would do with your tree might sound drastic, but I think it would be most effective. First, lop about 1/3 of the top of your tree straight off and throw it away. Don't cry -- in a few years, you will love the results. This will allow your lower branches to grow out more and develop even more fruit buds, while sending out more branches near the top as I've described above. Just remember -- any tipping or pruning promotes outward growth. Then next spring (2013), cut the top off again, this time about 18 inches above the highest branch. Again, another whorl of branches will form. And the more branches you have, the more fruit buds can grow and begin fruiting in future years, although pruning does also delay fruiting somewhat. Patience is not an easy thing, but I feel it can be the best thing for your trees and your fruit. In the end, what is more important? Maximum number of smallish fruit on a tall weird looking tree? If you don't prune your tree, that's what will happen. Or would you prefer a nice looking tree that produces fewer but bigger juicy looking apples?! I'm going with the latter.

You can see me talk about my plans for my 5-year Honeycrisp tree at the following YouTube video. http://youtu.be/EzOvt7uhMyk Sorry about the 18-minute length but there is indeed some good information about my Honeycrisp on there somewhere midway through the video. This year I plan to cut a big portion of the top off and I might also "ring" the bark of the tree up high to prevent too much upward growth and to promote more bushing out. This tree has not fruited yet, probably due to stress of transplanting it to my yard along with the pruning/training of it, but this year it has a lot of fruit buds so I will expect quite a bit of fruit this fall on the lowest branches and just a few on the trunk. I figure maybe I can get a half-peck out of it this fall. Hopefully.

Good luck to you.


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