Is there any consensus on tree spacing for semi dwarfs? I looked at previous threads and comments were all over the board (which makes me think there isn’t).
I added a few too many trees for next year (whoops) so I’m considering reducing tree spacing between the semi dwarf apples from 12 feet to 6 feet (i.e., throwing a tree in the middle). Has anyone had success with something similar, or should I keep the spacing and find different spots for the new additions?
Well, most are m7 and some are unknown. For example, these trees are from Stark and Fedco which are either semi-dwarf with a listed height/width or 12-15 feet or listed as dwarf. I think Stark uses either m26 or m9. Unsure on fedco’s dwarf rootstocks, but likely m9 or m11. I also have some dwarfs from Raintree and Trees of Antiquity. The Trees of Antiquity is m111, so I’ll likely have to do some pruning to keep it smaller.
I’m a novice compared to most, but this is where I think I went astray with my 50 or so trees now around 6-8 years old. Mine are a mixture of M111 and unknown big box or stark semi dwarf rootstocks. This sounds similar to yours.
Mine are 10 feet apart. That’s 10 feet on center, but that only allows 5 feet for each trees scaffolds to grow towatd each other. I also toyed with the same ideas as you having ordered too many trees myself. I actually started digging holes, but ended up abandoning the closer spacing. At 10 feet, i have been fighting keeping them pruned ever since. I can’t imagine the same at 5 feet.
I have always had trouble imagining those whips as full size trees, and underestimate what they will look like 10 years down the road.
For me, I wanted more varieties but ended up grafting as a compromise. I wasn’t willing to give up more yard and my view of the mountains and nearby creek.
Hmm interesting. Thanks for the insight. I may cancel the m111 tree then (I am trying to keep everything 10-15 feet). I just saw I can order the same tree from Meadow Fruit Gardens on m9, so that should be doable.
Sorry, I hit reply to soon and left out most of my thoughts.
Mine works partially only because my trees alternate between dwarf and semi dwarf (including M111 which are close to a full sized tree). What sort of rootstock do you already have in the ground?
I wanted space to graft and prune adequately. I also wonder if trees with scaffolds practically touching aren’t subject to sharing pests and diseases. I wanted trees that I could mow between. Slowly as trees develop, more and more are too close for that. Because I haven’t yet moved to mulching under and between trees, it has increased my workload for tending under the trees.
I don’t really mind the idea of pruning, in fact I enjoy it. Maybe I have just changed my opinion of what I want in a tree. The 10 year old M111 are quite beautiful trees. As I try to maintain their scaffolds more horizontal than they tend to grow, I need 10 feet and actually lean towards your current spacing.
I’ve never heard someone say they wish they spaced their trees further apart when they started. There might be people who feel that, but I expect it is rare. Many people realize their trees are too close as they fill in.
Having said that, you have to consider why you want so many trees. If it is for the fun and variety, and you’re not trying to maximize production, then aggressive pruning (particularly summer pruning) can keep trees in check with your proposed spacing. Most would probably suggest grafting other varieties onto existing larger trees might be a better plan, but if you enjoy pruning, one variety per tree with more trees may be fine. Just know what you’ll need to do for maintenance. If you are feeling like you want to squeeze even more in, look at examples of Belgian fences for examples of very closely planted trees that are often on semi-dwarf rootstock.
Don’t forget to factor in the vigor of the variety. There are lists you can find that will give you this information. For example, I have a Kerr Crab and a Monark, both on G969 rootstock and the Kerr is growing more like a dwarf tree, whereas the Monark will need aggressive pruning to keep it under control. They are 6 feet apart by the way. Goldrush is another variety that can be a fairly small tree on semi-dwarf stock since it starts fruiting so early that it can spur up and slow down very quickly.
All of my trees are 6-7 ft apart. I don’t need a ton of fruit on each tree, we get tired of them. I prefer more variety at the cost of fewer fruit per tree. Space is limited and I enjoy my variety. I also think my rows of trees look better when they’re spaced close together, but that’s purely aesthetics.
Disease can certainly spread more quickly though. And if one tree is overaggressive, the others can be dwarfed.
I treat my closely spaced trees similarly to trees that are multigraft. Fewer fruit per variety but more variety. Same benefits and downsides.
This is helpful. I think I just wanted a bunch of varieties and a large yield, but, perhaps, I should wait for the current trees to grow and then start grafting. That said, even with the new additions in still under 15 trees.
I actually have a second area where I keep underperforming or problematic trees. Unlike many I still have trouble disposing of those and I ban them to a little spot in the yard. I guess they are for grafting or standing in for another tree.
I grafted too many Bud 9 trees and moved half of them to a diagonal espalier design, taking advantage of their small size. That might be an option. Perhaps a different site or way of planting (3 in 1), other? I’m glad to hear about the variety of spacing in the group. Everyone has found a design that works for them. There is no one correct way of doing it.
How big is your property? 15 trees may be fewer than you imagine. Particularly if you are growing on dwarf rootstock. Most houses I have seen in my states are rated around an acre. When I started I thought 5 cherry trees that get 14 feet were going to take up a lot of space which I found untrue. I have found if you get creative with spacing you can easily achieve those measurements.
Also as you get older and more busy bigger trees like M111 become more attractive as blueberry said because you get more production for less work and water is becoming more scarce and thus will cost more money as time goes on.
Scion vigor, rootstock vigor, soil type, irrigation, and training system all effect tree spacing. I would suggest you look at this tree spacing calculator and play around with the different settings to get a better feel for how all of them interact.
Note: the calculator is setup for North/South rows- with East/West rows you need a bit wider between row spacing due to how sunlight hits the trees.
The calculator doesn’t cover some of the newer Genveva rootstocks so use this chart to convert a newer rootstock like G890 to older rootstock sizes G30/M26/M7 etc.
A list of scion vigor for many apples-
The problem with trees labelled semi-dwarf is that vendors are very loose with that term. The rootstock could be M26 or M111 or something else. My neighbor had a Golden Delicious on “semi-dwarf rootstock”. The tree was 30 feet tall and 30 feet wide. And Stark Brothers has sold semi-dwarf trees on M111 in the past.
If you can get trees labelled with the actual rootstock M7,G890, etc. This will make planning spacing much easier and much more accurate. Also if you have problems with the tree it makes troubleshooting easier.
The training system makes a big difference on how far trees have to be spaced apart. For example, using the tall spindle system, my Goldrush on G890 (an M7 sized rootstock) is supposed to be spaced 4 feet apart in row according to the calculator. For an unsupported tree trained to central leader system the spacing in row is supposed to be 16 feet. This is a huge difference.
You might also look at this thread where apple tree spacing is discussed in detail.