Notching to Increase Branching

I will apologize in advance if this question has already been posted on the forum, but does anyone have any experience with employing notching to invoke scaffold generation on young fruit trees?

I have several fruit trees (both stone fruits and pomes) coming into their second leaf and they do not have scaffolds nor bud nodes in locations where I would like scaffold growth.

I have attached two articles I found on the subject, but in both cases the notching involves cutting above bud growth- are there any techniques to promote scaffold growth on trunks without bud nodes?

Thank you for any advice or input you may have.

Russ

Notching Techniques Increase Branching of Young Apple Trees.pdf (53.8 KB)
Using Heading versus Notching.pdf (2.4 MB)

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We were actually just talking about this is another thread :+1: I have downloaded both files, thanks!

Here is the link where it is being discussed right now :relaxed:

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You can add chip buds where you want limbs.

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I tried it for the first time last year. I had a ~4 year old Harrow Sweet pear with a scaffold that was bare on one side. The spot I chose did not have a “bud”- it looked more like an eye at that point. I notched above it. No branch currently, but it does have something that looks more akin to a bud. I may notch above it again this year.

I also did the same thing on a ~2 year old Koran Giant Asian Pear. The tree had a defined bud that I notched above and now I have two thin, 1.5 ft long branches coming out from the same spot. One of those branches will be pruned this winter.

My take away point- notch the wood while it is young.

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Ive had mediocre success with notching 2nd and 3rd leaf trees (I’ve notched at the same time as I pruned, late March just a few weeks prior to leafout) . Probably < 25% of the notches result in branches.

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Thank you, Poncho65. Great thread- I appreciate you pointing me in the right direction.

Russ

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Excellent idea, Auburn. I hadn’t even considered this. I suppose the advantage with chip budding is one could try notching late in the winter as a part of dormant pruning and if this doesn’t take one could chip-bud in the summer?

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Thank you, ZombieFruit and GardenGekko- I appreciate your feedback. I noted in the ‘Notching Techniques’ paper that:

"On untreated controls, the most shoots grew from the upper one-third of 1- or 2-year-old
growth…" and, “The most effective time to notch was ≈2 to 4 weeks before full bloom.”

I may give notching a try this Spring and see what might develop.

Thank you again for your input. I sincerely appreciate it!

Russ

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Ahh before spring! I’m on the other thread posting pics abojt how im trying to notch to encourage laterals but it looks like i’ve likely did it at the wrong time! It is quite the learning experience all this… part of the journey i guess.

I like the idea of chip budding to develop some laterals. I think i’ll give that a go.

Jamie

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I have also side grafted in sections where I want limbs. The only issue is spreading to get wide angles.

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@Skillcult has an extensive video on his website about notching and nicking. His stuff is excellent.

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Great point, Auburn. Another option to consider.

Great suggestion- the following video seems to directly address the question at hand, starting at about the 23 minute mark:

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Notching can be incredibly effective. I’ve done it on new and old wood, above bud grafts and where there is at least a spot buds would lie dormant, like a cut off or broken bud or branch. I’ve also done it over small and large branches to force them on more. One I did recently was a branch stub, maybe as much as 1.5 inches in diameter with two grafts on it that just would never grow. I notched it this spring and I actually ringed it all the way around with a pruning saw and they took off. I may have notched it previously to no effect, but can’t remember now. I know ringing can kill a tree, but if it’s not a wide gap, they can heal it fast and keep growing.

All of that said, it notching does not always work and sometimes the tree will have it’s own ideas about how it wants to grow. It seems to be most effective on one year growth and other young growth. A couple of other factors are isolation and growing point density. I’m pretty sure that if growing points near the bud are reduced it is more likely to drive growth into the bud. This could be seen as taking a limited resource (growth resources) and directing it into fewer points, but there may also be a localized effect. Localized or not, growing points is a major factor in tree growth and something to consider when training trees. Especially if the tree has limited resources and not growing vigorously in general, it can help to remove growing points to push growth where you want it. I do that by taking out both wood and buds.

And then there are those resources. A happy tree with lots of resources is more likely to be able to throw growth in general, let alone something it wasn’t planning to favor. Trees that are densely wooded with massive numbers of growing points, not getting resources or fruiting very heavily will often not grow a single scion that is really very substantial. In those kind of cases, nudging a bud by notching isn’t going to result in much of anything. A decadent overgrown tree responds to pruning, partly because the resources are directed into fewer growing points. So I think those are the major factors. Notching isn’t a sure thing or magic, but it can in many cases force growth very reliably. Sometimes it will be the only growth that takes off in the area, and sometimes it will just be more vigorous than surrounding growth. And sometimes it will just sit there :slight_smile:

If the spot has any buds or dormant buds, think of what would happen if you chopped the tree off just above that point. There is a good chance it would throw a bud. In some ways, that is what notching and reduction of growing points can help mimick to kick start vegetative growth. I think as we become more sophisiticated, ideas will evolve, or be discovered already in practice (not much new under the sun), that will increase success rates in forcing growth when we want it. I personally have tried temporary ringing, both with knives and saws but can’t speak much to general success yet.

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Jamie:

If you are anything like me, I find there is so much to know in order to be a good nurseryman and it is a steep learning curve. I sincerely hope you have a successful growing year ahead and I loon forward to hearing how your notching and chip budding efforts turn out.

Russ

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SkillCult:

Thank you very much for the detailed and helpful reply. I sincerely appreciate you taking thr time to outline the various techniques you have utilized and the underlying mechanics and thought processese behind each- very insightful.

I am trying to learn how to look at a tree and understand what it needs to get where I want it to do- as you mention in the linked video it certainly does appear to be as much art as science.

Thank you again for your feedback and the excellent online resources- I have learned much from them when affording myself the opportunity to sit down and watch.

Russ

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I haven’t tried notching on anything besides apples but use the method all the time. I’m pruning scores of sites all winter into spring so can’t always be there to notch at the best time, but even early winter notches often seem to create new shoots.

The researched article is interesting, but fails to mention that there may be a connection between variety of ratio of success. I also believe that very old wood is less likely to work via this method. Given that old peach trees usually die if they are cut to stubs with no shoots from the previous year I doubt it would work for them- however there are serious differences between varieties, and especially older types of peaches are often more likely to send up new shoots form older wood. If it worked at all, these varieties might be the ones to try. Redhaven and Madison come to mind.

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Alan:

Thank you for your helpful reply and good clarification. I learned the hard way last year what overly agressive pruning will do to stone fruits. There is a lot to learn about successful pruning and structure development!

Yes, I had to learn about peaches from my own mistakes also. Even very young trees cut back to the trunk will usually die.

I find that vigorous peach trees benefit greatly from summer pruning as far as keeping new growth low in the tree. On my own trees I am doing light pruning all the time during the growing season to encourage the growth I want.

This makes a lot of sense, Alan. I sincerely appreciate your input!

Russ

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