Apple Trees Pruned to Open Center Vase

Anyone tried to prune semi dwarf Apple trees to an open center like a Peach tree? Just had an interesting conversation with a person who was very knowledgeable about hard cider production suggest it.

I have often wondered why pruning an apple tree to a central leader is the standard practice, but open center is the standard practice for peaches.

I have a dwarf Honeycrisp and two semi dwarf Liberty pruned to open center. When I started learning to prune them they seemed to be the right shape and location to do it. I have others that are central leaders, and others I prune as tall spindle. all of them not perfect in the eyes of a professional I’m sure,
but they give me fruit. In a perfect world I’d love to have the space for a whole orchard of dwarf open center Apple trees they’re pretty to look at and easy to pick.

The reason the universities recommend central leader for apples is because it allows for better yields because of greater efficiency in utilizing light. In southern areas I suppose it would also reduce sunburn.

Here in the northeast open center works fine for apples if you aren’t trying to maximize your crop, and most homegrowers are not.

Jellyman AKA Don Yellman also recommended it for apples and all other fruit trees further south.

How much advantage of central leader is lost on sites that don’t get dawn to dusk sun is not a researched question.

Just like Alan said, my goal is not to maximize the yield but for convenience’s sake (spraying, harvesting, ect.). My trees also do not get sun burn. We have a few deer. So far, not much damage from them.

Thus, not only apples or pears, all my trees are pruned to open center. Some may thing they look unattractive. Being able to stand on the ground picking fruit conveniently is attractive enough for me :slight_smile:

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3 of my apple trees are on M 7, one on unknown rootstock but is likely a M 111.

The Apple trees I prune central leader are pruned that way for when and if the deer find my open space orchard. I figured if all else failed one year I would still get some apples above the browse line. I also have bought disease resistant Apple trees for back up if I can not spray my trees or for some other reason I can’t do the spray program. Tall spindle pruning system for my enclosed vegetable garden for space reasons.

Could you post a pic of you tall spindle style ones?

My open center apples are cramped together with pears and plums so it is difficult to see from pictures.

I would have to figure out how to post the pictures! I do miss that about the old garden web it was so easy to post pictures. I just learned it from the you tube videos. I had a few failures with the wiring set up and how deep to put the posts in. And my set up is still a little funky backyard amateur looking. Some of my posts are screwed together from posts I found on our ocean beach after a big ocean storm. I try to reuse things from the beach. I have even found ten foot conduit poles for my trees washed up on the beach. The commercial lobsterman use them for their buoys. Although now it seems most of them are changing over to plastic pole.

I do not know how to post pictures until Oplea walked me through. I use iPad so when I “reply”, there is a row of symbols on the top of a reply box. The symbol that has a thick line with an upward arrow on top is the one for pictures.

When I hit that arrow, it leads me to my photo album, I choose Camera Roll. It opens up to all pictures I took on my iPad. I pick a picture I want, hit Done on top of the page. It will lead me to another screen where I hit Upload. Let uploading complete 100%. The pic will show on your reply box ready for you to post.

I only know how to do it with iPad. I am tech- challenged.

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I got lucky on pictures. I save the ones I want to post to my desktop, and then all I have to do is click and drag

to the post I’m writing. (This one is my tiny basement bakery where I make bread and -surprise- apple pies.

:- )M

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I have deer issues as well but train most of my plums and peaches to open center with no intention of giving dear most of the crop. It is another reason to start scaffolds high here. I still have to crutch up a lot of branches to keep the fruit high, but this is not all that labor intensive in the grand scheme.

One nice thing about a central leader tree is that you have something to string sagging branches to. Easier to mow under branches held up this way than having to work around crutches.


Wow so easy, thanks! Liberty Apple!


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Hard to take a good picture with the fall lighting and the woodsy back ground.

Yes if I could start over I would of done my pruning like you say. I do crutch up my Liberty because they always want to give me a big crop.

Anybody have an opinion on the expected yield and fruit quality of an apple tree on a semi dwarf rootstock pruned open center compared with a full dwarf rootstock on a trellis similar to tall spindle?

Seems like just about all of the full dwarf rootstocks suffer from some type of problems. Woolly aphids, fireblight, brittle and so forth. The advantages are high yields, early yields, high quality fruit, lower spray, thinning and harvest costs. I wonder how many of the benefits of the high density model could be duplicated with open center trees on a semi dwarf rootstock.


The economic advantage of dwarf trees is not based on more bins per acre once trees are in production. It is during the years freestanding trees are not in production that the advantage occurs. This is speaking generally- soils that encourage excessive vigor may benefit from dwarfing rootstock throughout the existence of an orchard.

I have read about Japanese orchards on seedling rootstock that got extremely high yields of highest quality fruit, but the labor involved is much greater than with dwarf trees. Spraying and harvesting are harder and pruning is much, much more labor and skill intensive.

Where free standing trees pruned low would be an advantage, I think, is in pick your own operations. The ignorant hordes would likely do a lot of damage to dwarf trees while ripping off fruit.

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I think a rootstock like M 111 pruned to open center would be sturdier and more productive than a dwarf rootstock.

I compare my unknown rootstock apple tree (label said semi- dwarf, I suspect M 111 for it does not behave like M 7 I have). This unknown rootstock gives more yield and a very sturdy structure.

It was not pruned during its first 4-5 years for I was clueless. By the time I got to do some pruning, it looks like a mix of open center and modified central lead.



My preference: spindle style