I know there are other threads on pruning, but figured I may get better feedback starting my own.
I have a Golden Russet on mm111 that was planted 5/2016. At planting it had a large side branch as well as the central leader. I left the side branch in place as it was about 4.5’ above the ground. I usually aim for my first set of limbs around 4.5-5’, so it seemed like leaving the branch made sense. I am now questioning my decision. The side limb appears to be “stealing” most of the growth. It is putting on more growth than is the central leader. If my ultimate goal for this tree is to have a strong central leader, should I go ahead and remove the side branch next dormant season?
I did that on my one apple tree and I call it my “muddlefied central leader”. My tree is neither central leader nor vase, and even though it has worked out I wouldn’t do it that way again!
But I don’t think you need to remove the entire branch. I’d consider heading it back to the horizontal shoot that branches off of the limb closest to the tree. Train that limb to keep it horizontal, and don’t let it put on too much growth until the real leader is clearly dominant.
But before you start cutting wait and see what others say.
If you wanted a central leader tree, you should have pruned it to one a long time ago. Now you have something like co-apical dominance. You can take off the whole branch of you like, however you will set it back, it terms of fruit production in the near future.
I’d prune it off just above the first horizontal branch on that co leader. Then you will re establish dominance in the central leader. After you prune that big branch back, you can then focus on getting scaffold branches where you want them
Check out @SkillCult and some of his videos on Youtube regarding notching above buds to force branching, they are worth multiple views each.
I have done that on the unbranched side of this tree without luck.
I believe I will go ahead and remove the entire side branch and sacrifice near term fruit production.
Before you do remove the whole thing check out dutch cut in pruning - there is often a dormant bud that will express if the branch is removed properly, and that might solve your problem neatly.
Hmmm…I will have to spend some time reseaching dutch cuts. Thank you
The dutch cut sounds alot like the cut that is used to renew branch growth in tall spindle apple growth systems.
If a long-lived healthy tree is wanted, perhaps removal of the side branch is a good idea.
If near term production is wanted…leave both…or cut the side shoot back some as already suggested.