Shaping peach and apple trees




I’m already looking ahead to the next pruning season.

I have a honeycrisp apple tree that is roughly 9-10’ tall on a semi dwarfing rootstock (unsure of rootstock as it was ordered from StarkBros). This spring it has put on a lot of top growth and has started to lean. I crudely added a post for support but I am wondering if topping it would encourage it to grow a stronger base? The deer keep it trimmed at the bottom for me. Eventually when the tree is mature, I would like to keep it in the 12’ tall range with a central leader. So any suggestions are greatly appreciated!

The peach tree is an EarliGlo also ordered from StarkBros. It is growing great on one side but is lacking a scaffold or 2 on the other side. Just curious what can be done with that one?

Topping would have probably been best when it was still dormant. You could probably take 25% of new growth. This early thats likely to cause some water sprout/vegetative growth. Thinning cuts are preferred over heading cuts in apples.

Id definitely stake it straight. The first pic looks like a rodent hole is near the base. That could be part of the problem.

The peach looks like it has enough scaffolds to me, but you could heavily fertilize it and see if a new shoot develops.

We have deer problems. We keep them away for the most part by using melorganite and urine as fertilizer.

For what it’s worth, I have two trees from SB and neither is doing great. One is a pear, seemed stunted and has yet to break dormancy this year. It was planted bare root last spring with mycos and was well taken care of, but struggled all year. The second is a granny apple. It’s doing ok, but is also small, almost stunted, planted same as the pear. Trees are far apart. This isn’t my first orchard and I have about 25 other trees all doing way better than the only two from SB. Won’t be ordering from them again.

The hole/holes are from crawdads because the trees are near a ditch/creek.

So should I go ahead and take a little off the top now or wait until the tree is dormant?

As far as the fertilizer, should I do straight nitrogen or I have some either 12-12-12 or 19-0-19. I am also looking into starting to do some grafting and wondering if it would be possible to bud graft onto the one side? The tree was planted in the spring of ‘21.

I have a total of 8 plants from StarkBros and have no issues other than 1 tree died (my own fault and they replaced it no questions asked).

If your rootstock is vigorous, I think keeping your tree at 12ft will be very time consuming in a decade. There will eventually be a lot of wood and you will need ladder, pole saw, etc to deal with the height.

Regarding the peach, you could try notching, which is cutting a horizontal line above where you want potential buds to push. It sort of simulates a pruning cut, without doing it.

If it was my tree I would thin anything new growing up, use the 12-12-12 and stake it perfectly straight. Then during dormancy cut it down to where I’d want it. Crawfish burrowing that far from a bank seems far to me, but either way I’d try to eliminate the holes. Notching has worked great for me on apple and pears, but has rarely worked on peaches for me. Maybe the perspective is hard for me to judge from the pics, but the apple looks very stunted and spindly if it’s been in the ground since 21’. I have a few apples planted bare root that year and they are now 2.5-4" calipers, 7-9’ wide and 10-13’ tall. I have no knowledge on grafting having never tried it.

I will take a little off the top when the tree is dormant. I don’t mind climbing ladders and using a pole saw. I am only 37 so hopefully I have many more years of good health!

I checked today and there does not seem to be any buds on that side of the trunk. From what I have read there needs to be a bud to be notched above???

As far as the caliper of the trees…I do t know where to measure them, but both are at least 3” in diameter about 1’ off the ground. I have trimmed up the peach tree some, so that may be the cause for it appearing so short.

I have craw dad holes all over my yard and up and down my lane.

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I think ideally there’s a dormant one to wake up, but I’ve seen new buds form (at least on pear) out of the trunk close where buds or branches used to exist. So I don’t believe there has to be a visibly viable bud for this to work.

I’d say notching is worth a try for the minimal effort involved. Try to notch or prune in good weather to avoid opening doors to disease.