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Tricky pruning for young wine crisp

 
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Hello! I am a new one and found this community out of my interest in growing Apple trees. I also am an avid outdoor worm composter!

I have a young wine crisp apple tree that is already getting nice apples, but the tree is too weak too hold most any of them.

My question is about pruning this tree. From what I have read about the angles branches should be, the current growth pattern seems really bad. Most of the branches go out at a really sharp upward angle. The lower branches too seem to have the opposite problem that they are going toward the ground, but this is skewed right now by the Apple weight.

Lastly, I’m not sure about whether to go the central leader or open center route. I am inclining towards the latter, but not sure in either case what I want to keep!

Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Pictures attached.
272DA210-1D64-48AF-A54F-F0573922E995.jpeg
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Angle 1
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Angle 2
 
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Posts: 976
Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
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Welcome to Permies Jeremy!

My pruning preference is to minimize pruning if I can, which minimizes open areas for disease to spread to the tree, and the tree won't have to spend extra energy healing from the cuts.

You could remove any apples growing towards the ends of the limbs that are bending too far, which tend to weigh the tree over, leaving apples near the stronger trunk area which won't weigh the tree over.

Instead of pruning you can train the limbs in question with branch spreaders to keep more potential fruiting wood for next year.

These threads have lots of great additional information about this type of pruning (or not pruning ). Hope this helps a little and looks like you might have some tasty apples soon!

Never prune technique of Holzer and Fukuoka

Sepp Holzer on apple trees
 
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Location: Western WA, Olympic Peninsula, USDA Zone: 8b
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Hi Jeremy.  One thing I have learned about pruning questions over the years is that the answer will depend upon whom you ask and what you're trying to accomplish with your tree.  So this is what I would do if this nice little Winecrisp was my tree in my location (maritime pacific NW USA).

My reading of Fukuoka has led me to believe that he was talking about no prune methods for non-grafted trees.  Once a fruit tree is grafted on to a specific rootstock it basically becomes a "pruned tree" at that point.  My feeling is that this being the case, you may as well make peace with pruning the tree thereafter.  It doesn't necessarily have to be a lot of pruning but in most cases at least some pruning will be required to maintain health and production of the tree.

We have a small hobby orchard of about 60 fruit trees.  My winter and spring climate is very wet and I learned that the traditional time of year to prune fruit trees (late winter/early spring) is asking for disease trouble.  Some years ago I stumbled upon Dave Wilson Nursery and their Backyard Orchard Culture (BOC) including summer pruning of fruit trees.  For me personally, this changed my whole approach to my fruit trees.  I primarily have my trees on semi-vigorous rootstock for soil and climate reasons that I won't bore you with (M111, B118, M106).  With BOC I've maintained my trees at an easily accessible height of 8 or 10 feet despite my choice of rootstock.

So... after this background info on me and my preferences- looking at your tree I notice what appears to be blue paint on the trunk near your black support rope in the second picture.  I assume this tree is grafted then.  You may know the rootstock it's on and if this is the case that would influence my pruning advice a bit.  For me personally, I'd remove the three lower branches (by the black support rope) making the cut at the branch collar.  Over the years growing fruit trees I've settled on a modified central leader pattern for apple trees.  You basically have this already with your Winecrisp.  I'd make a heading cut on your tallest (dominant) leader to achieve this.  Otherwise your tree looks very good.  You may wish to use spreaders on the lateral branches and aim for a crotch angle in the 45-60 degree range.

Last it's a young tree so I'd remove most of the apples to allow the tree to put it's energy in to growth saving a few of the nicer apples to sample (I know, hard to do).

Hope this perspective helps some Jeremy!
 
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That appears to be a very young tree, less than seven years old would be my guess.

I don't like to let young trees (under seven years) bear much fruit if any at all, I want my fruit trees fairly well developed so they can hold on to the fruit and not put stresses on the trunk/ branch junction.
At the stage your photos show your tree, I'd pull all the apples off and let the tree put all of its energy into growing stronger, I wouldn't worry about doing any pruning this year or even next year.

Once the tree has some better developed branches, (around 1 inch thick or more) I would start using some colored tape to mark the sharp V branches, these are going to be watched to see if they decide to open up the angle, if they don't then those are first to go away.
I've seen many trees ruined by owners that get into a pruning frenzy and that is not what you want to do, take lots of time, you want to have a plan for when the leaves drop so your pruning is beneficial and not  creating more problems down the years.

Redhawk
 
We should throw him a surprise party. It will cheer him up. We can use this tiny ad:
Heat your home with the twigs that naturally fall of the trees in your yard
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