Pruning new apple trees prior to planting

Hoping that someone can advise me on pruning and planting fruit trees in my yard. I have bought 3 different types of tree all in pots on dwarfing or semi dwarfing root stock. i will post my questions separately to save confusion Firstly I have 6 one year old apple whips at around 7 ft tall with some feathering and mixed variety. The books say prune them back to knee height after planting out. I plan to use an open center model and the feathering, if it were the right height, appears to have good branch angles and an ok structure. Should I still cut back to knee height or use last years feathers to start the scaffolding at a much higher level?


It will depend on what you want the final height to be. If you want a lower scaffolding tree, then prune low. If you want a taller tree, leave a couple branches.

If it were mine, I’d top that tree just above the 3rd branch. I like my fist scaffolding branches at about waist height, with the top of my trees at about 8 feet.

I prune mine to an open center as well, i feel like many folks are moving away from the traditional central leader style pruning on apples and pears and making a more wine glass shaped tree.

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I have 4 apple trees in the ground, using “Grow a Little Fruit Tree” pruning techniques. One tree has bloomed and has an apple. That’s after just 2 years in the ground, and I’m in a harsh high desert environment. I plan to keep mine very short–no taller than 4’ (2 are espaliered)–so I am brutal with the pruning right now. I like how everything is responding, and keeping them small = keeping them well maintained. I also have 2 cherry trees which are on dwarfing stock, but are taller. I also keep them well-pruned so they can be covered for frost and bird exclusion. They will be kept no higher than 6’. And I have cherries galore. I’m of the opinion that shorter is better; you can always let them grow later.

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It depends on the size of the tree you want and that has already been mentioned but also if you have any deer pressure. I also bought the “Grow a Little Fruit Tree” book and was excited about keeping my fruit trees small. However, several deer came through my yard and destroyed several trees. So I need to keep my trees above browsing level. I also need to cage them until they get at least 6 feet or above. I am relatively new at this so I am constantly learning. I do admire those that have the ability to keep their trees short and can follow the techniques in the book.


If you haven’t tried it already, I’d give the “Scarecrow” impulse sprinkler a try. The motion detector can be adjusted and it lets out a few blasts of water from the sprinkler at the culprits. Works for dogs, rabbits, deer, people (um, namely, me when I forget where I moved it to). Here’s a link to Amazon, if it will fly. There are other kinds.

I linked to the Orbit, which I now have. They really last many years. You do have to have water supply.

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Thanks. I will look into this.


My deer got used to the motion detector sprinklers every year after about a month of avoiding … lots of work and money down the drain on that idea. You can still have small trees but need to have the fruits in the 5-8 foot zone.

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I hate deer with the fire of 1,000 suns.


For me it is “How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Deer” (old movie reference there…). They chewed down my hostas this spring… I said to my self, “who wants those old hostas anyway”. Destroyed an apple tree I didn’t protect … “well, I didn’t really want that tree anyway”. It is so much more relaxing this way :grin: All my trees I care about that are too young have a 6’ high circle of deer fence around them. I bought a 200’ roll of it and cut into 6’ chunks to make circles. It takes me about two minutes to put one up around a tree. Peace of mind for two minutes of work per tree. The main thing I wonder is why I didn’t think of this 20 years ago, I would have a lot more hair left if I did.


Most of my food plants are fine, (fenced) but I can’t even grow a goddamn hydrangea or azalea.

You have a good straight start, why waste the height? Try notching the tree to get another low branch where you want it. I would search on GrowingFruit and Youtube for SkillCult’s videos on tree pruning and notching. I have never quite liked what the books have said about topping trees, when there is another solution.

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