Should I prune this apple tree or leave it alone to grow more first?

Hi all,

Should I prune this young apple tree (later this winter) or leave it alone for another year to grow more first? Cant decide.

It struggled to put on good growth this year, as I didn’t clear enough grass around the tree (I cleared the planting area in late summer, and will widen it again during winter).

I am aiming for open centre (against conventional advice).

Tree shape looks good to me, open center height might be too high for my liking, but it’s a personal preference.
Two tall branches seems too upright, I would SLIGHTLY bend them down RIGHT NOW when tree is still young. I usually put some kind of anchor it the ground and tie a branch. Next winter/spring I would prune all the branches to the outside bud in this year growth to promote more fresh growth.
What rootstock is it?

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What type of rootstock? If dwarf I would give it time and decide in spring just before bud break on the final shape to want to create. Open center is my preference as it allows for training scaffolds much lower to the ground where you can managed all aspects of maintenance without a ladder. I would for certain cover a larger circle as far out as the future drip line with mulch. Winter is a good time to kill the turf in favor of feeding the tree. If you cover the grass with cardboard, then add 5-6” of wood chips on top that will smother out the turf. You can adjust it outward as the tree grows but your trees feeder roots will then be fed by the woidchips as they break down. If you can locate an aged woodchip bed where the hyphae are already apparent from mycorrhizae breaking down the chips, even better than fresh wood chips as your mulch.
Dennis
Kent, wa
Some active mycorrhizae in this chip clump

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Thanks for your feedback guys.

It is on semi-dwarfing rootstock.

Yes, tying those 2 tall branches down slightly now is a good idea. Will prune as well in winter.

One of my frustrations is the growth being mostly on those 2 branches on one side and not evenly around the tree.

“growth being mostly on those 2 branches” - it happens. My open center trees (fruited first time this year) exhibit similar behavior. Your horizontal lower limbs will have more flower buds compare to the vertical ones. Remember, when pruning next year, the more you cut into previous year grows, the more branch will grow. So do not cut aggressively into two tall branches. You will have a chance to prune them next summer/fall to control height.