Using Dave Wilson techniques to keep trees small

Great post Dave! Scott inspired me a lot too. I too need to thank all here. As if the info isn’t here the info to where it is is here. Such as those pruning videos. I let Dave Spellman at DWN guide me in how to prune. The DWN videos are very good and focus is both commercial and residential.
I wanted to touch on vigor and pruning.
This is my Santa Rosa plum. In the picture below you can see this scaffold is 4 or 5 feet from my porch overhang
By august this scaffold will grow over and under the porch overhang. It did last year

So I need to stay on top of this.
This tree needs some pruning and renewal also.
Here is a couple scaffolds on the same tree notice the upright growth on top. No doubt dominating the scaffold and also branch is starting to get too high.

SoI cut out the dominate vertical growth. This will renew this scaffold bring scaffold down two feet and is now at a much better angle. The scaffold still ends in new wood. Bringing scaffolds down to a good angled secondary branch is a great way to renew your scaffolds.

Here is White Gold sweet cherry. I only did one scaffold on the right but you can see how much once done the canopy will be lowered


I guess it’s all relative. I just noticed the age of your peach trees you posted vs. trunk size. We prune our trees extremely heavily too, multiple times per season till they slow down when they get older and our trunks are probably about twice the size of yours at that same age.

The trunks of the size for age that you posted I see more on backyard trees here where sod is allowed to grow closer to the trunks.

Part of it could be you have a shorter growing season. Here peach trees are sort of like the energizer bunny. They keep growing and growing and growing. Vigor can be a problem here.


I always compared to trees 35 miles away at my cottage. I have a ten year old cherry tree and the trunk has diameter smaller than my wrist. It’s so strange how harsh a fresh water marine environment can be. Nothing grows fast there. Most of the trees posted are plums and plum rootstock. My peaches are on citation. Not suggested for here but I find that they are dwarfing for peach compared to Lovell. Currently I have only one on Lovell. Not shown it’s only three years old.
Also i would say that the grass comes and goes depending on how much mulch I use. It’s at a low right now. I need to request another chip dump.
I didn’t do it last year as I had bilateral partial knee replacement surgery. March 8th it’s been just over a year. I can run and jump again! This year I’m so behind I may have to wait till next year.


Here is citation trunk after ten years.
This is a 4 in one grafted tree so trunk is all citation.


Great post that’s been on my mind as I’m just starting my urban orchard. One thing I’ve been thinking about with bareroot trees is pruning it aggressively from the start and the implications going forward.

Using MU extension model, they recommend bareroot “whips” be pruned to 30” after initial planting. This makes sense to me as you’d be starting the “crotch” of the tree fairly low as you’re forcing branching lower down the tree.

I planted my bareroots from groworganic two weeks ago. They were between 36-42 inches, and I debated cutting them to 30” to force branching even lower. I decided against it as they’d just been pruned. I’m hoping this might help those who’d like to start off with bare roots and want to keep small…

University of Missouri Guide


I too have often gone with existing scaffolds. Especially on larger trees. I’m happy with results. Not really an issue. All are doing great and just as low as any.

1 Like

Here is a typical sized 10 year old Harrow Diamond tree on seedling roots (a tree I grafted on a random seedling peach rootstock). Of course Citation will reduce vigor. It’s interesting to note the difference. I’d estimate the trunk of this tree is about a foot in diameter at it’s thickest point. Fairly typical for this age of tree in our more southern Midwest climate. Pic taken today.


Wow! Yes very interesting. I think trunks could be bigger here with better care but not that big. Most trunks here are like the citation I showed you. I have been happy with vigor and you guys showed us numerous ways to increase or decrease it. I have skipped winter pruning to slow vigor. I find myself slowing vigor more than increasing it. Although my cottage garden I always try to increase vigor there. .


I’m so glad to have found this information. Thanks for sharing. I started my small orchard last year with 6 trees and added a flavor king and a sweet treat pluerry last week. I have been attempting to use Dave Wilson’s techniques to keep trees small, so it’s nice to see real life examples. Drew51, you have no idea how happy I was when I saw the pictures of dapple dandy and flavor king you post it. I’m new to this, and I selected trees based on cold hardines and zone without thinking about blooming time and i was excited to see somebody was able to grow them and get fruit up north. I still need to prune the pluots but I have a couple of questions. Is it too late to prune this year? And, Should I prune pluots like a peach tree with an open center? All of them are awake. Flav supreme had some flowers and its showing leafs, dapple d. is showing all leafs no flowers. Both were planted last year and I did not prune earlier this year because they were so small I was not sure if they were going to survive. Flav king is showing just flower buds that are starting to open and sweeat treat looks similar, but with less buds and some green tips. Both of these were bare root trees planted last week. Surprisingly they are twice as big as last year trees. Any input would be apreciated.


Welcome to the site Sergio!

No, you can and should prune through August 1st. Dave Wilson style includes summer pruning. In general prune for shape in late winter, and prune for height during the summer. You can prune for shape and height right now. Late winter or early spring pruning increases vigor, summer pruning slows vigor. I would still prune now even if it slows growth, only a couple weeks.
Flowering now will be erratic and not much of an indicator as to your normal bloom time. As the tree matures and adapts to the area a pattern will emerge.
Not all will flower, so the fact some are and some are not is completely normal.
Yes prune to open center like a peach.


Nadia in bloom. Photo taken yesterday. Tree has four or five grafts. Interesting they all bloom at once. This tree is two days ahead of others. St. Julian rootstock. My only tree with this rootstock. Probably worth avoiding as everything on this tree bloomed ahead of all my other plums and pluots. The tree is swarming with bees.


I did a little research on st. Julian. It is used a lot in the UK, it appears to be very hardy. So a couple days early is fine with me. It’s hardy, Nadia is doing great. Really no complaints. OGW sells the rootstock. And other plum rootstocks too.
Here is satsuma on myro rootstock. Not sure which Myron? This is supposed to be a standard rootstock (no dwarfing). I have not really noticed much difference between rootstocks. If anything this tree has lesser diameter than the so called dwarfing rootstocks.

Some branches the flowering is behind. Vermont, superior, and Toka seem to be slightly later flowering. Only days difference though.


I have a peach and plum on St. Julien, it dwarfs peach tree significantly, so much so that my peach has started to bulge at the graft location. On the other hand, this is a good rootstock for less pruning/maintenance and looks like quite precocious.


Good info to know.


Love this topic. I planning my first fruit tree plantings and want to use the Dave Wilson technique/summer pruning to keep trees small. I am in the southeast (NC), but a lot of the information I can find is from the west. I have two questions:

  1. Has anyone used these techniques in the southeast?

  2. Has anyone used these techniques on jujubes?


1 Like

Jujubes really grow different, I would search “how to prune jujubes” as they are different than other trees. I have little to no experience with them. In backyard orchard culture These techniques work anywhere. Sometimes you need to make some adjustments to your area and growing conditions. Like here in Michigan we are damp so keeping center wide open is important. Three in one orfour in one are harder to do here, too close causing retention of moisture. Best to do multi graft trees here.

Thank you, Drew. I wasn’t planning on doing any multi-tree plantings, so that won’t be a problem. And we are DEFINITELY humid here in the Piedmont so I will keep centers open as best I can. (It’s a trade off because we’re also very sunny so there is a risk of sun scald on the fruit.)

I have four rows that are 80’ long each that I can plant trees in. I was thinking +/- 8’ per row, so 10’ on center, which I hope will be plenty of room for air to circulate.

One of my rows is actually in a small 16’-wide hoop house. I’m going to take the ends and sides off so there’s good air flow and plenty of cooling in the winter and then use it to plant stone fruit. I’m hoping the plastic on top will protect apricots from late frosts and keeping the rain off peaches/plums will help avoid some diseases.

In my other rows I’m planning on a few pears, sour cherries, jujubes, a handful of persimmon, maybe mulberries, and the rest apples. We have access to great southern apple varieties through Century Farm Orchards and we especially love Goldrush for drying and sauce.

We already have blueberries and brambles, and then I have other areas on the property where I can plant nuts (chestnuts, hazelnuts, maybe pecans), figs, kiwi, grapes, mulberries, and elderberries.

I am thinking about thicket plums and passion fruit, but haven’t decided about those.

I should say, this whole area is fenced from deer!

Yes that’s cool. Squirrels can be a problem and some grow trees higher to fit baffles on trees to keep squirrels off. Also you can do 4 in one hole but you have to keep top of pruning. It can be done here, I just prefer to limit the work I have to do. I was just out spraying this morning. I need to thin fruit. And my container garden needs a lot of up potting. Weeding is a daily thing too.
Sounds like a good plan, and will keep you busy
Ten feet is a good distance mine are at eight and it’s a little crowded but I would still do again.

I keep all my trees small easily with winter and summer pruning.


i am also trying to keep my trees as small as possible. i just skimmed through here so i might have missed it if someone has already mentioned it but i first heard about keeping fruit trees small from David the Good’s books and videos, which led me to read the book “Grow A Little Fruit Tree” and i also watched some Dave Wilson Nursery pruning videos. so last year, i bought a bunch of bare root whips (apples, pears, plums, nectarines, apricots, persimmons, mulberry) and planted them, then chopped them all down to about my knee height. they all pushed laterals, some lower than i thought which i was happy to see, since i thought they would only push closer to the heading cut. i pruned most of these again around the summer solstice last year. this year, i pruned in late winter/early spring. i already pruned the plums and pears again this year since they grew so vigorously. then again around the solstice i plan to prune the other trees - apples, nectarines, apricots, persimmons (these have fruit so after i harvest), and mulberry. this year, i added some bare root pomegranates and goumi berry bushes so i intend to prune those on a similar schedule as the others. but it really depends on how much they grow. other trees i didn’t buy as bare root i do try to keep small as well. i try to buy small/younger trees from nurseries so i can train them to be small/short. when i do get older and taller trunked trees, i chop them down lower too. so far keeping the trees small has worked very well for my citruses as they are very productive unless they get freeze damaged in the winter.