High density planting of tall spindle apple + UFO cherry

I’m wondering if I could do tall spindle apple tree spacing at 3ft and then plant the line of apples behind some cherries trained with the UFO training system.

So in the end it would be a row of cherries a foot or two in front of a row of apples.

The UFO cherry leader would be bent so the upright branches start 6inches above soil so imagine 4-5ft tall upright cherry shoots a couple of feet in-front of apples that are 8ft tall.

In the commercial setting tall spindle is 3ft spacing and more vigorous verities are used than the heirloom verities i’m using in the backyard. UFO has 5-6ft spacing in commercial setting.

So both these systems have tight spacing on their own, i’m just wondering if i can combine the two systems with less vigorous verities and if it would be fine or at worth a try i guess.

If cherries shading the bottom half the apples is an issue i could train the branches a bit so they grow away from each other.

I do not think roots of these two systems planted close to each other is an issue due to all the 3 in 1 hole plantings that are currently being advertised.



My tall lemons in back with kumquats in front failed to work out. Same thing as your idea. I wish you luck on your endeavors. It works out upstairs and on paper and hopefully it will work in ground for you.

Your plan is to have your row spacing at 1 or 2 ft? … im confused.

what is your goal exactly? Want to collect multiple varieties? Want good fruit production for the smal? space you have available?

Generally i would be careful adopting commercial spacings in a backyard grower setting.
Those who have commercial orchards usually also do more night frost protection, and thus are less likely to have a year where the tree produces little fruits and grows like crazy, way more than the allotted space.

And even if they do run into those issue’s they can usually root prune with tractors fixed blades and stuff. As a hobbyist that’s usually not an option.

Planting so close will give you some shading. and that could lead to increased disease pressure and usually reduced fruit productivity.

I would plant at more “normal” spacings and do multiple varieties per tree. Or look into espaliering some tree’s.

you could play around with

to see how much and at what times (of day and of year) they shade each other.
if explained more about that tool in this topic.

i would also worry about having the horizontals of the UFO so close to the soil. I have no scientific proof for this. But i think 6 inches off the soil is to close. Will likely lead to higher disease pressure. (the branches stay moist longer. Especially if weeds grow. Might get damaged more often when weeding etc

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i just measured the space. The bed is 4ft wide - i was going to put another persimmon there but i could put the apples in the back and the cherries in front so the cherries would be grown 4ft from the apples.

4 or 5 apples and 2 or 3 cherries… the bed is 15ft long.

goal - just plant more varieties in a small space.

I was going to do 3 in 1 like the rest of my trees but i figured i could combine these two systems some how, still plant with tight spacing similar to 3 in 1 but instead of open center and 3 in 1 i would do tall spindle and UFO.

I have space to do two seperate plantings but i also think the wall of flowers would look nice.

that said, i already have apples in tall spindle in another part of the yard and i have other cherries trained KGB so this new bed of cherries/apples is more of a test which im fine with.

I actually have 4ft of space between the rows of apple and cherry and i could go higher for the UFO than the 6in i mentioned in the post.

Absolutely not. You pretty much have room for 2 fully dwarfing trees if you prune alot.

My tall spindles are 3’ spacing and rows are 7’ apart and my trees block the rows…until I prune.

i think your best bet would be to plant tree’s at “normal” spacings. And graft multiple varieties onto them.

from a sellers point of view i get the 3 tree’s in 1 hole thing. (sell 3 times more tree’s, yes please!) If never understood it from a backyard growers perspective though…

For commercial plantings of apple trees on dwarf rootstocks typically spacing is 3-4 feet between trees and 11-13 feet between rows. In practice, soil type, irrigation, scion vigor, rootstock, target tree height and pruning system all play a role in establishing spacing distances. I have linked a calculator below that allows you to calculate reasonable spacing distances. Also heirlooms often have as much or more vigor than commercial varieties- you really need to know the vigor of the variety in question to estimate the spacing needed.


This list estimates apple scion vigor.

Cherries require more space.

You’re wanting to basically have the rows be 4 foot apart which is about a third of the distance that is recommended. And a commercial apple orchard has no shading from surrounding trees and buildings which is almost a given in a backyard orchard.

Also your profile lists you in zone 8b. What state are you in? 3 in 1 hole planting work in arid regions out West like parts of California where the disease and insect pressure is extremely low. 3 in 1 hole plantings in the East are going to have disease and pest issues… you want more space for trees.

With the available space you want to put in fewer trees.

Im confused. If my space is 15ft long and your spacing is 3ft between trees why would you say i can only fit 2 trees… 15ft/3ft spacing = 5 apple trees on the back edge of the bed. But i only need to put 3 or 4 trees in there so the apples fit.

I do not see how short vertical cherry branches (essentially whips spaced say 6-8in apart) in front would shade a tall apple tree in back assuming 4ft spacing between cherry and apple and my sun angle. The vertical branches on the cherry are spaced apart and light can get through.

I planted most of my trees 3-4ft apart and open center them and keep them very small/short so tall spindle @ 3ft x 7 or 8ft tall would actually be a bigger tree. My first trees i planted years ago are combo trees - no like since each verity grows differently. I like the small trees of different verities vs fewer bigger trees as well.

per a few EDU PDFs i have read tall spindle spacing is 2-4ft between trees,3ft being ideal. The calculator you linked to says 3.8ft between trees is recommended so one row of apples spaced at 3ft sounds like it should work.

The row spacing on the EDU PDFs is usually based off of tree height. Your calculator recommended row spacing is also uses tree height as a factor but since i only have one row of apples the spacing between rows doesn’t really apply here does it?

The cherry trees in front are going to be kept much shorter than the apples in back so the cherries wouldn’t shade the apples based on my sun angles. I have an acre so no buildings would cause shade on these apples/cherries.

I did read that the 3 in 1 doesn’t work back east due to the summer rains. Im west cost so bone dry summers. The trees i have planted over the last few years are all doing fine with close spacing and keeping them really small. That said when i initially planted those trees i figured i would prefer some verities over others and then yank those trees out allowing for the remaining trees to have more room.

a 1e year cherry shoot, makes relatively little shade. However where there’s 1 leaf per internode on that shoot the first year, the years after it, you will have a bunch of leaves on each internode, and you will have more shade pretty soon.

You can’t just look at row spacing of commercial orchards, and than use that as a backyard grower, especially not if your ignoring the between row spacing those commercial orchards have.

you seem determined to plant way to many tree’s on a small spot. They will probably survive and make some fruit.

But id urge you to listen to back yard growers advise on spacing. It will likely yield you more fruit, less disease and way less pruning.

i know the feeling of wanting “all” the varieties! and it’s really tempting to squeeze in a tree somewhere. But it’s way better to learn to graft (it’s not that hard) and make “frankentrees” in that case.
And that way you can get more varieties in a smaller space, without all the disadvantages of to many tree’s in to little space.

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I am not familiar with the EDU documents you mentioned if you have links you could post them.

UFO trained cherries have spacing requirements as well. Recommended spacing is 5-6 feet between trees and 9-10 feet between rows. And that’s with Gisela 5 which is the most dwarfing cherry rootstock available. See this link:

So you have two rows of two different species of fruit trees. Using the training systems we discussed, one species requires 9-10 feet between rows and the other 11-13 feet between rows. I think you want at least 9 feet between the rows and really 13 feet would be best. You are going to need prune, spray, and manage the trees and more space is going to make this easier.

I understand you want to cram as many trees as possible into the space you have but this usually ends badly. Before you do this I would do a bunch of research . Look into stepovers for apples which is a system used in the UK for keeping apples small in gardens. You might also look at Gene’s orchard in Chicago where he had trees <5 feet tall on M27 rootstock in very small spaces.


But these systems require quite a bit of care, irrigation (in your climate) and are vulnerable to animal damage. Good luck.

Just watched a UFO cherry training video.

I don’t know why this isn’t just refereed to as espalier. That is what it is, and it’s been done for many hundreds of years if not longer.

2-D planting lends itself commercially to mechanization.

In a backyard it is good for space constrained folks. If you are looking to grow more varieties in a small space and aren’t as concerned about maximizing fruit quantity for any individual root system, espalier is a great choice.

You do need to pick spur fruiting varieties though as opposed to only end tip bearing ones.

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