New bareroot apple question

Hey everyone, another quick question about one of my Liberty bareroot apple trees. It has growth at a few different heights along the trunk, should I just leave the lower growth this year and potentially prune it next year? Or should I get rid of the lower growth now and hope it pushes out growth higher up?

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I’d leave it. Let all of the growth now go toward building new roots. Then prune in the spring. You don’t need to risk introducing disease this time of year either.

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interesting question. i have been trimming all woody growth off below the height where I want the scaffolds to start. Good question for Alan. A lot of aphids on top.

I think I’m leaning towards leaving the growth in the hopes that it strengthens the root system. Didn’t even notice the aphids, should I just brush them off by hand? Spray with soap/neem oil?

If you dont kill them, they will just climb back up. Need to kill them. I like dawn dish soap mixed with water in a hand sprayer for small nursery trees. Dawn suffocates the aphids and isnt harsh on the environment


I think the advice to leave them applies better to larger trees. I would pinch off the small suckers below the wire, just based on my experience growing out bench grafted apple trees, this kind summer pruning is essential to train a whip. Every week or two I go down the rows and pinch off all the lower growth, often there’s 2-3 new ones - the little tree is trying to grow into a bush and branch from every bud and sucker, and you want to direct energy to the top and maintain one trunk. Next year are you planning to top it and train some branches on the espalier or is that for support?

Sorry I’m kinda misunderstanding your post, I don’t have a wire in that photo/against the tree. I’m planning on picking 3 or 4 main scaffold branches and keeping the tree short (but right now there’s just that one bud growing on the top of the trunk, the rest are really close to the ground). I’ll try to get a better picture from a different angle…

Same tree

I would leave the lower tiny branches be for now in case something happens to the top one and to provide additional photosynthesis for the tree. Take them off later in the Summer or during the Winter. The top branch is twice as thick and clearly showing dominance. You can top the new leader in the Winter or just leave it be probably and get a bunch of scaffold branches on next year’s growth.

The aphids you can just gently remove by hand (or smush into the leaves). Slightly soapy water, neem spray, or a labeled insecticide also work. Aphids are kind of a crappy insect. You can see them, they don’t bite/sting, and they’re killed by nearly everything. It’s only when there’s a ton of them and/or you can’t reach them that they’re hard to deal with. I’ve picked them off a couple new trees’ new growth this year. They were only a hassle on a gooseberry with over a dozen new growth points (and smaller more curled up leaves, plus crazy thorns). The trees I held off on spraying with anything and after a two weeks I started seeing ladybugs and not seeing new aphid infestations. (edit: And I figured the “wait on ladybugs” people were huge liars in bed with Big Organic™, but it actually happened.)

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Just a FYI… there’s a lot of green aphids visible in the photo.

Ok I was looking at your fence in the background, thought it was closer.

In most cases less pruning is more with establishing trees and if you worry about the future shape it is at the expense of speed of establishment. That can be fine for peaches and J. plums because they grow so quickly- they may even establish more quickly if you select their scaffolds right away and eliminate all other growth on the trunks when they are vigorous growing trees. It’s not how I do it but commercial growers often do, as I understand it.

Lower branches help harvest more light to feed roots and also increase the taper of the trunk by providing more energy to the part of the trunk near its location. This is why its now a recommended practice to leave temporary branches at the base of young ornamental trees.

In my nursery the only branches I eliminate on young trees are those that exceed half the diameter of the trunk at point of attachment or any wood that excessively shades what are gong to be my permanent scaffolds. If I don’t remove those over-sized branches right away they will end up dominating the growth of the tree and with apples will delay the production of fruit and with all fruit trees tend to create an out of balance shape, or, if there are 3 such scaffolds with good position, potentially have a scaffold break under the weight of its first heavy crop- but that can be managed. I sometimes allow it with my peach trees and strong unions can be created, especially by branch spreading, but it’s tricky because they can also break when you try to spread them. Oversized branches tend to form a weak union with the trunk. Especially when growing in relatively vertical position.


If that lower growth starts out performing your top bud growth… you could always just cut the growing tip off the lower growth. If more growing tips develop there later … and they probably will…just keep cutting them off.

The shoot and leaves would remain and continue to support the tree… but you would slow them down… which should encourage more top growth.

Good luck.

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What concentration for Dawn/water?

Thanks Alan,

Always learn from your posts. I see I have been too aggressive in trimming lower branches, trying to encourage vertical growth. I’ll start using the “1/2 diameter” rule from now on.


Palmolive Original Green (must be original) works well. A healthy squirt in a gallon of water, in a pump sprayer don’t shake. Also works well for many garden pests like squash bugs.

I mix about 3 tablespoons per gallon. Its a rough estimate though, i make it like i do when doing the dishes.

Good advice… but my ladybugs took care of mine… even laid eggs and had babies to enjoy the aphids…which in turn will make more ladybugs that eat more aphids.

I too was a bit worried about aphid damage…then one day i saw this.

I saw a little caterpillar on another apple tree leaf…then this happened right in front of me.

A wasp tortured that caterpillar then flew off with it.