Buds on First Year Apple Trees

I planted several apple trees last fall. Over the winter, they were covered with black plastic pipe for animal protection.

This spring, since they are still small trees, 2-3’ tall, I just wanted to see how the new buds come out. So I did not head them this spring. The pipes are still on. But I just see that, the new buds come from the lower part of the tree, still above the graft union. The part not covered with pipes has no buds. I thought the new buds should come from the top, where it still receives sun.

Anyhow, if I prune the main trunk just above the top bud, then the tree will branch out too low, at about 18". The other option is to keep just one bud and train the central leader again and head the new growth at the proper height, about 30" or so. Not sure if I should have headed the trees sooner…

Patience. Not uncommon for young trees to bud out near the ground first since the air is usually a bit warmer there. That would be especially true in your case since the black pipe would absorb sunlights and become heated.

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So just wait for top buds to come out?

Winter top freeze can be a possibility, but some of them look very healthy at the top. Some came as 3-4’ tall.

Unwrapped the covers and headed all trees to 30-34" tall. Some trees have buds all the way from ground to the top. Some only buds near the base. It is still early and I’ll wait for some time to see how they grow.