Modified central leader examples?

My first tree was supposed to be mCL but I let a couple of scaffolds get too large, and a couple of others didn’t do what I’d hoped and so on, and now I call it a muddified central leader. Still produces lots of apples, though.


Here is a line of 3 apples I have trained somewhat to a MCL. I am not very strict in the pruning as some of these trees hold 8 different varieties and I leave extra for scion cutting. Some scaffolds are too thick because they are a grafted branch of an important variety I want to grow out for scion wood. All trees are on wild crabapple seedlings.


No, I can’t even remember if I notched a bud on the Stayman tree. I remember that I did notch to get branches started on various trees after I planted - just don’t remember which ones. I merely was stating that there is a technique to start a branch by notching. Often a tree comes from the nursery that is just a whip or has a minimal number of branches. Of course, it’s common to cut off the central leader to induce branches just below the cut but that is not always desirable. Really doubt if notching caused the fireblight on this particular tree. I had fireblight strikes in other trees that year. The Bartlett pears that I had at the time was a magnet for fireblight so that was the problem.

1 Like

Those look good, is there any downside or issues tying branches down this way vs using weights? I filled old bottles last year and used those and this seems like a lot less work… i wasnt sure if our strong winds we get here would be a problem if I used the cage as an anchor, but looks like you used the next scaffold as an anchor for many of them.

The trees are close to my front door so they get more attention then my other trees. The main problem is string eventually sinking in and girdling the branch. I slide the loops to a different location every few months. The trees would look better if deer didn’t constantly tip the lower branches.

I wasn’t sure if this was a reply to me or not :slight_smile: At this point I’m leaving those little twigs as there’s still plenty of sunlight and they’re making fruit buds pretty quick. Maybe they’ll get shaded out later and I’ll remove - but I think it might work to leave them.

1 Like

Ha, this is how my Arkansas Black tree looks every year when weighted down with apples. The branches are small and can’t hold the weight of the fruit. I have every branched tied with string in an effort to save the crop and the limbs. It’s a sort of orchard spiderweb and I’m the spider.

I think you are very industrious taking on the crotch angle of every branch! Your trees will surely turn out well. I have considered making cement weights but right now my go to is limb stretchers.

Thanks for the photo - I like seeing the real world results. Looks good, but deer also love having things easy to reach.


Be careful of selecting secondary scaffolds as permanent. The above picture shows the lowest level of three scaffolds on my Gravenstein tree. Two of the primary scaffolds has secondary scaffolds that are about a foot away from the central leader. While both are not ideal because they are too close to the trunk the one on the left is much more problematic because of the narrow angle. This causes crossing issues resulting in having to prune excessively as they are competing for space as seen in the below picture.



I don’t do dwarfs, so the ‘bonsai’ pruning level of care isn’t in my skill set, but many years ago read that ‘the tree knows what shape it wants to be’ and we’re just there to help it be the best it can be. Even within the same variety, one will go completely ‘central leader’, while the next goes ‘vase’. Selecting against weak crotches and narrow angles I’m ok with, but some trees are just stubborn, and need to just let be or they’ll fight you every year.
Fortunately, I grew up among some elderly wonders of the apple world, whose gravity and orthodoxy defying shapes and productivity taught me to respect their own innate ‘wisdom’.

1 Like