Hi, I’m Leslie Huffman, Apple Specialist,
with the Ontario Government. In this video on high density apple orchards, I’ll show
you how to train Tall Spindle trees from Year 2 to full production. After the first year,
Tall Spindle apple trees should be reaching for the top wire with a tall, straight leader.
Each feather should have fruit spurs with bourse shoots, and each terminal should have
6-8” of growth. Each tree should be secured to the trellis or support stake at several
points. The area under the tree should be weed-free with adequate moisture, either with
mulch or trickle lines. Starting in Year 2, our training goals are to maintain the
dominance of the leader, encourage more spurs, and fill the fruiting zone. Maintain the leader
by removing or redirecting all competing growth. Each year, secure the leader along its length
– a training stake will work well until it grows above the top wire. After that, let
it fall over or prune to a weaker sideshoot. Look for branches that compete with the leader.
Remove them with a stub cut, or pinch them back, depending on their vigour. In early
summer, remove vigorous shoots that emerge near the leader. Next, concentrate on the
fruiting area, which needs to be filled with spurs and exposed to sunlight. Keep pruning
to a minimum to encourage early cropping. Follow the 50% Rule Remove feathers or
branches that are larger than 50% the diameter of the leader. This cut is best on dormant
trees, using a stub cut to encourage renewal at this point. Simplify each lateral branch
by removing forks. Some people describe this as “singulating” or “columnarizing”
each branch. Feathers or branches that grow above the horizontal should be tied down.
Vigorous shoots may need to be positioned below the horizontal or removed entirely.
Upright shoots can be tucked under branches or wire to encourage fruit buds. Keep pruning
to a minimum. Remove low branches that will interfere with weed sprayers or mowing. The
lowest branch should be above the knee. Remove root suckers or shoots on the trunk, when
present to prevent fire blight infections. And finally, remove any dead, broken or diseased
branches as general maintenance. If the leader is damaged, if fertility is too high or the
rootstock is too vigorous, the tree responds with excessive regrowth called suckers or
“watersprouts”. In this case, the balance of the tree needs to be restored. Choose a
replacement leader from the strongest upright branch, tie it to the trellis or stake, and
remove competing branches. Remove only the largest suckers, leaving a renewal stub. Keep
pruning to a minimum by tying down or tucking branches. A properly trained tree needs to
be encouraged to maximize growth and set fruit spurs. Water or irrigate every week to maximize
growth. If irrigation is not available, mulching under the trees will also preserve soil moisture.
Apply fertilizer or compost before bud-break to maximize growth. Foliar fertilizer in-season
can also be used if needed. Control weeds under the trees from bud-break to terminal
bud set with herbicides, mulch or cultivation. Scout weekly for insects and diseases, and
discourage deer and rodents. Avoid over-cropping by using the Equilifruit Disk and the Cornell
Young Tree Ruler to measure the diameter of the trunk or branch, and indicate how many
fruit to leave. Hand thin fruit as needed. Only strong branches should be permitted to
crop. Training your trees is critical to achieve the high yields and quality needed in Tall
Spindle high density orchards. Plan your workload to get each task done on a timely basis. Your
success depends on it. For more information on high density apple orchards in Ontario,
please visit our website or give us a call.