Training and Pruning Apple Trees – Central Leader or Open Center? | Pruning Fruit Trees


1. Which advantages have each training system? 2. Which are the possible problems? 3. How can they be corrected? 4. Which shape should you choose? 5. How to prune to achieve each shape? Keep watching while I try to answer those
questions… Most commercial orchards choose a Central Leader or a Modified Central Leader approach These 2 systems are based on a central axis with a few primary scaffolds evenly distributed, around it. A few secondary branches are allowed to grow on each scaffold, for fruit development. These orchards can have the trees tightly
spaced, to increase production. With the right rootstock, the Modified Central Leader might even be used without any tree support. On modern commercial orchards the trees can be placed even closer. These, usually use a Spindle System, like the Tall Spindle. The goal is to maintain the central leader
dominant, ignoring branch spacing and leaving only small weak branches. These systems always require tying the central axe and branches, to a vertical support system and wires. These high density systems allow for more than 500 trees per acre, depending on variety vigor and rootstock used. On home orchards a more traditional, low density approach is often used and the Open Center or Vase shape is a good option The Open Center shape is easy to implement by keeping the center of the tree cleared
and doesn’t need a support system So, which shape is best for the home orchard? For me, the Modified Central Leader and the Open Center are the best options and I use them both. Nevertheless, in most cases I find the Open Center easy to work with. Let’s find out why… The training system might have to be adapted to the type of fruiting, as not all varieties will work well, with the same shape. Tip-bearing varieties have a tendency to fruit on the tip of branches. Spur-type apple varieties may fruit along
the branches or main trunk on small long-lived spurs. Dwarfing rootstocks used to increase production and keep the trees small have weak root systems. Using a Central Leader type shape without using some kind of support system may not be possible. With any of these two shaping methods, yearly pruning is essential. Neglecting the trees will result in poor production, smaller fruits and many other problems, like potential branch breaking. If you want to avoid the need to use a support system, prefer the Open Center shape or use a semi-dwarfing rootstock, like MM106. Don’t forget that the tree will be much taller than if you use a dwarfing rootstock , like one of the M9 types. Keeping the tree very small might help. However, even with this approach, a single unbalanced branch can tip the tree over, in some soils. So, try to avoid unbalanced branches, through adequate pruning. Nevertheless, if using the Modified Central Leader the best option is to stake the tree or use some kind of wire support system Both shapes have their strong points. Apple trees have a tendency to grow in a natural shape, which favors the Central Leader training system. Even so, the Open Center shape has its advantages, namely a much more stable framework, that rarely needs support. Don’t forget that some apple varieties will
do better with one shape over the other, although adequate pruning, may correct some of the problems. If unsure, start with the Modified Central
Leader. You can always change this shape to an Open Center if you want, as this modification is not difficult to do. Before pruning any tree, don’t forget to wipe the blades with alcohol to prevent spreading diseases. In the first year, head back the plant 50
to 60 cm (roughly 2 feet), above the ground level. In the second year dormant pruning, head back the central leader to the desired height, near a lateral branch. Leave the desired number of main scaffolds, evenly spaced, and head them during summer to 1/4 of their growth. Remove scaffolds that are too close to each other and also those that have an angle too narrow to the main trunk. Pruning for Open Center is similar in the
first year. The tree is headed a little lower to the ground and 4 to 5 main scaffolds are selected. In the following years, cut all branches that grow to the center of the tree, so light can get in. Other pruning operations include: cutting
too vigorous secondary branches, removing vertical growth and lowering the tree to maintain the height. Heading scaffolds that are too tall is always done by cutting them to a weak lateral. This controls vigor and minimizes development of watersprouts. If you are unfamiliar with these pruning terms, check my video on “Basic Pruning Techniques” to know more. During the summer you can do some “summer pruning” which consists in removing all branches growing inside the center of the tree and
all vigorous vertical growth. Thanks for watching.
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Comments 20

  • Great Channel! Do you have a website? Would you sell cuttings?

  • Muito obrigado pelo video conteudo maravilhoso ,otimo muito bom !

  • Very simple and very good knowlwdge given by you thnkuu so mch

  • always learn something new.

  • My favorite fruit tree pruning videos.

  • boa noite JAIME…os seus videos cativam…você não vai editar videos próximos, acerca das caldas químicas para as árvores de fruto? JAIME um abraço..

  • Muito obrigada… um video inteiro a responder à minha questão :-). Gostava de deixar as minhas macieiras na forma mais natural possível mas, algumas Porta da Loja vieram com a vareta simples demasiado alta (mais de 2m). Entretanto cresceram imenso em altura mas nada de pernadas. Aconselha a cortar a haste principal agora em Agosto ou espero pelo Inverno? Mais uma vez, obrigada

  • I got asked this question a lot, so here's a video about what i think are the best training systems for Apple (and Pear) Trees in our home orchards.
    Table of Contents:
    1. Choosing the shape – Comparing training systems in Commercial and in Home Orchards – 0:50
    2. Possible Problems of each training system – 4:18
    3. Solutions – Choosing the right rootstock, stacking and supporting – 5:42
    4. Which shape (training system) is best for our Home Orchard – 7:09
    5. Pruning:
    5a. Pruning for a Modified Central Leader – 8:33
    5b. Pruning for Open Center or Vase – 9:52

  • 4 dislikes????? ….. you got to be certified insane to dislike this.

  • Can the pruned stems be used.. like of other fruits

  • Thanks for the reminder about all the dwarfing rootstocks needing supplemental support (and most semi dwarf, too). I have room for probably 2-3 trees in the yard and will probably end up going with one of the more vigorous rootstocks that doesn't need support (G890, M109, M111 etc). I want to keep the trees to maybe… 8-10' tall, so I think G890 might be a really good choice. Will probably graft a few more varieties on to ensure good pollination and wider ripening times. Your videos have been really helpful!

  • Thank you for taking the time to record the progress of this training video!

  • after working on orchards for 45 plus years i have found the only way to prune is the boss's way it's allways right

  • Than you !

  • Great tips, 👍thanks for sharing 👍👍

  • Great video, many thanks. I have three young apple trees, your sharing is much appreciated.
    I recently planted a quince, so you have any of these and would consider a video with pruning recommendations for these? Or would you generally advise a similar approach to what you do for apples?
    Thanks again.

  • I just planted four apple trees this spring. They are about four feet tall now. Do you mean I have to cut them back? Won't they just die? I live in Wisconsin USA.

  • Onde são estas macieiras. Será moimenta…

  • hi bro
    how to dwarf your apple tree?

  • Hola. New to your channel. I Enjoy your videos. I bought two dwarf apple trees. I live in zone 7a. When is a good time to do winter pruning?

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