Apple Pruning: Heading Cuts and Stub Cuts: Guy LOVES Heading Cuts?

This guy LOVES heading cuts on every apple lateral. Not sure I understand this.

He leaves a two inch stub (bench cut? Dutch cut?) when pruning out oversize branches. This reinforces Alan’s advice to remove branches one half or more the diameter of their host branch. But I’ve never seen such long stubs. What do you think about this?

He also cuts off one side of every forked branch. What’s the reason behind this? I’ve seen other pruners do this but never heard a reason.

I stopped making heading cuts last year after reading so much about favoring thinning cuts.

Hope to hear what you think.


I thin out a lot of forks, simply because it will make the tree less dense. Often where they fork into three I will keep e.g. the furthest out one only.

If a branch is at an angle its OK to leave a stub sometimes, as you will get a less vigorous growth back. But if its straight up you need to take it all the way back - it will always come back anyway, and if you take it all the way to the base it will come back small not big.


These are tightly spaced trees presumably on dwarfing rootstock. Obviously, excessive vegetative vigor is not easily stimulated at the expense of fruit production. The method seems to be to accelerate the creation of fruit holding capacity along the entire length of the trunk without any blank space for even a season. Leaving stubs assures new shoots where needed will form the following season.


Certainly an interested video. Pruning concepts are something I’ve struggled with in the short 4 years I’ve had my small orchard.



I am around twice as long, I still struggle with pruning concepts. I am a slow learner, obviously.

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On heading cuts there seems to be two different schools: Don’t Be a Snipper (Tom Burford et al) vs
You MUST head back young laterals the first few years (David Vernon, Lee Calhoun et al).

Unless the Burford school means don’t be a snipper AFTER young scaffolds are well formed.

More confused every day now, it seems. My apple and pear are bizarre to look at.


I’ve had to come to terms with the notion that there is no right way - after watching lots of videos. If you can discern their prupose in pruning you can resolve the differences in techniques.
My ‘purpose’ in pruning is to first define the ‘fruiting zone’, aka where I allow fruit to be, aka where I can easily protect or reach the fruit. Limbs are cut, tied down, or tied to a trellis within that zone. It makes it not only easy to decide on cuts, but also to net the tree come fruiting time.


I enjoyed the video, but I need to view the video a few more times to get a better understanding of his process. He makes a LOT more cuts than what I have seen recommended elsewhere.

Here is another video demonstrating the pruning practice recommended by Cornell for high density trees where very few cuts are made.

Here’s the best pruning guide I’ve seen, all in one place from Boyer Nursery. They obviously put a lot of work into it.

I tried to copy it to Word to save it as a document but was unable to do so. If e.g. Boyer goes out of business would hate to lose access to this guide. Anybody know how to copy it? I plan to point my grafting students toward it.



I added it to the general references page here … downloaded it first so Amazon will hang on to it for us :slight_smile:

General Fruit Resources


When you load the pdf there is a ‘download’ arrow in the upper right. So you can keep it on your computer and print it as a pdf instead of a Word doc.

Thanks Anne. I’m not very techy- was hoping for a work around like this. But I don’t see any download arrow in upper right. Do you see one for this document?

If I email it to you as an attachment, you should be able to open it. If so PM me your email.

Pruning is complicated, not only do the different species require a different approach, but same varieties, particularly with apples, have their own traits that require different management. Apples are the most complicated, at least when dealing with semi-standards from M7 up. Once apples are bearing you can learn faster by waiting to prune until flower buds are clearly visible at first growth in spring. At that time you can clearly see where the flower buds of a variety form which will help you decide what you can afford to remove.

Scott didn’t include it in the general reference pages above, but I know that some people find the article I wrote about pruning by numbers (ratios) very helpful- Lee Calhoun wrote me a personal thank you note when he received it and told me it cleared up confusion that had plagued him for 20 years. Yes, that is a boast, but I’ve spent so much of my life trying to figure out pruning that I would like to think the knowledge I’ve acquired is generally useful. What is unique about my explanation is that it includes actual numbers and distances needed to achieve adequate spacing of branches, such as distance between tiers in a central leader tree and how far branches should be allowed to spread in upper tiers.

Of course, videos provide visual information more difficult to extract from words, but words are necessary to explain concepts. When I was learning to prune I used both and gradually learned the reasons for contradicting instructions.

That said, even though I do more fruit tree pruning in a season (maybe in a month) than a home orchardist is likely to do in a lifetime, decisions can still be challenging. If that wasn’t so, I doubt I’d still find pruning all day long, 6-7 months of the year still interesting.

Incidentally, the idea of pruning back scaffolds on young apple trees by a third is the traditional method, but it is generally not employed by anyone involved with commercial production unless a specific variety demands it to achieve adequate rigidity in the branches to support a crop. It can also be used to encourage secondary branching, but commercial growers tend to use temporary scaffolds with varieties like Honey Crisp that are not cooperative at branching out. I use the temporary branches to tape uprights from permanents to horizontal which takes care of secondary branching problems pretty quickly.


@Alan’s pruning advice has been invaluable to me and I’m sure many others so I hope we could include his Pruning by Number in reference material. I realize the Boyer guide represents just one school of pruning. I had forgotten you pulled all your pruning advice together in one document.

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I watched the Polish pruning video twice and tried to compare his technique to the one demonstrated in the Cornell videos. Both demonstrations were on dwarf trees in large commercial orchards but located in different continents. The techniques are very different and I don’t completely understand why.

The focus of the Cornell video is on training the tree by tying branches down the first year and limiting pruning labor in future years. The trees are not headed when planted. Around year 3 the largest scaffold is removed with a stub cut. Forks are removed, stray branches are “simplified” and the pruning crew moves to the next tree. The process is designed so it can be completed quickly from a motorized pruning platform - (in about 10 seconds) by semi skilled labor.

It looked like the fellow doing the pruning in the Polish video touched just about each branch. Lots of detail pruning which takes time. I don’t completely understand the benefit of the many, many heading cuts but since the activity is taking place in a large commercial orchard it must work in their climate with their economics.

Larger size trees require more knowledge and more technique like that described by Alan.

Why does that say ‘English version’? :slight_smile:

Crazy, it took me a second to realize he was responding in English, heavily accented and don’t catch it all.