Pruning advice for Backyard Orchard Culture

I’m using BOC (4 trees in a hole) for the bare-root trees I planted this winter. I’d like some advice about both short-term and long-term pruning.

As I understand it, I should keep the center of the 4 trees relatively open. But does this mean that I should not allow branches from any of the trees to overlap the territory of any of the other trees? (e.g. when I prune I should prune back sufficiently so that none of the branches from one tree are entering the space of the other tree?)

Assuming that the answer to the above is yes, it seems that over time, each tree will become quite lop-sided. I’m imagining this is not a serious problem–since it’s kind of the equivalent to each tree being a branch of a larger tree–as long as the roots are well balanced enough to keep the tree from uprooting itself. With that thought in mind, I’ve made sure that my drip irrigation is also watering the space in the middle of the trees so that each tree’s root system will grow in all directions. Am I understanding this correctly?

I’ve watched all the DaveWilson videos and read all their info, but can’t seem to find these issues being addressed. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Finally, could someone please tell me what the protocol is for thanking people for their advice on this forum? Should you send an individual email to the contributor, or should you just add a reply to the thread? (the later seems like it would just create lots of unnecessary postings, but I’m not sure.)

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For thank you’s just click on the heart shape at the bottom of a post. That means thanks, among other things- like- good post, helpful post, I agree, etc.


Why would they address this? Their goal is to sell you as many trees as possible, they don’t care how your four trees in one hole will look in five or ten years.


The heart symbol I gave @Stan meant I agree with his statement.

One of the issues a 2 in 1, 3 in 1 or 4 in 1 method has is managing all the trees’ growth rate . Even if those trees are on the same rootstocks, some varieties may grow a lot faster than the others.

On my multi grafted plum trees. Shiro, Beauty and Toka grow like weeds. Flavor Supreme, Flavor King, Flavor Granate not so much.

So you have to figure out if all your trees grow at the same rate, if not, weak growing tree should be planted to get most sun and the fastest growing gets the least sun.

Like I said, that’s only one of the issues. Others can chime in their pros and coms.

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For us, multiple trees in one hole didn’t work very well, too hard to balance growth and work around them. We had more success with close plantings (trees are about 6 ft apart in places), pruning summer and winter to keep them manageable, and a couple of espalier to fit more in. We also have levels, eg. Blackberries and blueberries in pots in between trees. Good luck!

I think open means whatever you want it to mean. I have a three to a hole planting (18" on center) going strong for over ten years, I keep the trees pruned to their own space. I would think that there would be some crossing branches otherwise, so I prune to prevent that from happening.


3 to 4 trees a hole work well, but if you know how to graft you probably don’t need to do this and they must be well pruned. Most people do not know how to graft so it’s a good option. Make sure they are on the same rootstock and don’t allow crossing branches and keep them open centered. I have 2, 2 in ones and 1 3 in one. They are all doing well but I have them at about 4 feet on center. This allows the trees to get bigger and not be overly lopsided, and creates a large single tree footprint. So you need a bit more room for a 3 or 4 in one tree. I prefer to keep single grafted trees but this is a great option for those that don’t graft and know how to prune well. Also looks good if pruned well.

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My trees are already planted, so I’m committed to multiple trees. I’m actually very interested in learning to graft, but I have chosen trees that have different harvest times, and I read that one of the disadvantages of multi-grafted trees with multiple harvest times is that the trees don’t live as long, due to being worn out by the extended harvest times.

I agree with you that grafting is a better way to go. So much easier to manage a single tree, but DW has distributors that charge a premium to often inexperienced backyard growers for their patented varieties at retail.

Single trees given their own adequate space are much more attractive to my eye.

That said, I still often plant two trees in a hole just because I’m impatient to test new patented varieties. The variety I like most is likely to end up being the permanent resident.

However, I live in the east- the 4 to a hole method is probably far more practical in the west where vigor can be controlled by managing water.

No one has explained to me, however, why it is superior to a multi-grafted tree. If you want a stunting affect, use a less vigorous rootstock.

I have to wonder if this wasn’t the construction of a DW PR person. Branches function like independent trees and a different bearing time on separate branches would have absolutely no affect on the ability of a tree to sustain adequate energy for survival as I understand tree biology.

However, growing fruit is great fun and I’m sure you can make your 4 to a hole method work for you productively, as has Mr. Clint. If he’s still so happy with it after all these years it must work well enough and may be the best method for some people in the west.

I knew I posted my three to a hole planting a long time ago:

You might have to go to the actual post to get the images. This is just my interpretation of “open”, you may find another way to do it. I suggest embracing the flexibility of BYOC rather than looking for hard and fast rules.