Now what?


5 year old buck +
I just picked up my order of apple trees (and a peach and plum for fun) from Motz Nursery. To me, the uneducated, they look great. The tallest is just shy of 10' and they are feathered out. I'm going to plant them this weekend and think I'm prepared except for the initial pruning. From what I have read, I should be taking about 1/3 of the wood off the tree to compensate for root loss. Any advice on which branches I should be taking off, what to look for and how much? Whole branches or just the ends, etc. ?
Any advice would help this newbie.
20140507_Apple Trees.JPG
I'll let the experts comment on the initial pruning, but those trees look great!!
yea you have to hack them down to about 36 inches and take a cut on each feathered branch so say the experts but you can do whatever you want since they are your trees. I experiment with mine all the time and do what I please. What do you have to lose except a little growth here and there or a year delay in fruiting. that's the risk. Those trees do look amazing by the way!!!
Nice looking trees, what varieties and rootstocks did you get?

I probably wouldn't really remove anything but I would head back just about everything (leaders and branches) 20-25%.

Here's a good article on the subject.
Here's some other good information from Ben Hooper that was posted on the other site.

Tips on growing/pruning caged apple trees

Planting year (1st leaf)

1. Stake your tree immediately after planting (1/2" elec conduit is what I use). And 8' hardwood 1" stake is also excellent. Mulch with gravel/peastone, crushed rock etc. out to the cage diameter.

2. prune the main leader back to 36 inches for 5/16-1/2 diameter whips and back to 4' or so for 3/4" whips. For feathered (branched trees) cut them off 18" or so above the top feather. When heading back, cut just above (1/2") a bud at a slight angle, to not damage the "root" of the terminal bud.

3. Fasten the tree to the stake with aglock, string etc, with some breathing room.

4. Let the buds sprout and asess the condition of the tree. If it is lively, there will be lots of buds sprouted out 1/2" or so and green. Maybe some flowers (remove all flowers year 1) If the tree shows only a little life by mid June, let it sprout more and start training next year.

5. When the buds are out 1-3 inches, the top several buds will look like they are all trying to become branches. Leave the top bud and remove all the others below, within 4 inches. If growth is weak, fertilize with 6 oz 10-10-10 around the base but not touching the tree, scratch into the mulch.

6. If lower branches head north and try to become a leader (very likely), tie them down with kitchen string, weigths, clothes pins etc. keep them weak.

7. If you have a green thumb and decent soil, you will get 2-4' of leader growth of your selected leader.

Second leaf

1. In March (or before bud break for your locale) prune 50%-75% of the branches inside the cage off as close to the trunk as possible. Any nub left will resprout (dutch cut), so try to get it close. Start bottom work up.

2. If your leader growth was more than 4', cut it back to a ripe bud at 4'. Score above some buds above your cage, where you want your lowest branches. For B118, 5-6' off the ground is about right I think, but variety will play a part in branching habits so make the call.

3. If your leader growth was less than 2', repeat the leader process by repeating step 5 above, and do not score above any buds. Did you fertilize?

4. On your new branches, try to get good angles on the branches, again, variety dependent, you may need to clothespin and tie some branches out....use limb spreaders, weights, whatever.

6. After your tree is taller than 8', you should practice dormant season pruning on the top of the tree, to maintain leader growth. Basically allow the tree to produce several leaders ever year, and remove the ones you don't want in March. This is normal dormant pruning as done on mature trees. Eventually your tree, will produce high branches that will shade the lower. Suckers (upright whips off a branch) will form, and should be removed dormant season also.
Those trees look really impressive. The caliper, height, and branches all look great.

As Ed mentioned, what varieties and roots are the trees? I wish I had an order like that waiting at my garage!
Thanks for all your replies. Ed, those instructions you posted are great. It's helping me understand the different information I was getting. The heavy pruning back that I was thinking is for smaller trees but when I spoke with Doug of Motz, he said he would just cut back any broken branches and be done with it for this year. I didn't understand it was different for larger tree sizes so I was a bit confused.
They are going in this weekend so I'll have to post pictures of the finished product.
They are all on "Standard" rootstock. When I asked what that was at the time of ordering, they told me Dalgo rootstock. Yesterday when speaking with Doug, he was going to double check them all for me because I told him I wanted to keep all that info for my records and to track different rootstock performance. He was super helpful and good to deal with.
Tree Types:
For property #1 (Lots of cedar trees so rust resistant was key)
1 - Mt. Royal Plum - self-fertile
1 - Contender Peach - self-fertile
1 - Chestnut Crab
1 - Fireside
For Property #2
2 - Chestnut Crab
1 - Fireside
1 - Honeycrisp
1 - Honeygold
1 - Sweet 16
1 - Snowsweet
1 - Liberty
Oh, one more thing, since I'm not pruning these back to whips like I first thought, Should I start training some of the larger branches down already or let the tree get established first and train late summer or next year to get better crotch angles?
Present time is a good time to start training you tree. As soon as they start leafing and budding out is a good time to put clothes pins on. As for bigger branches I would give it a little while after planting to let the tree start greening up and get the sap flowing, let some of those roots start to set then tie them down.
Over the weekend I got all the trees in the ground. Other than all the rocks you hit trying to dig the holes, everything went pretty smooth.
Next time up to the property I have to start training crotch angles down and add the wood mulch around the bases of the trees.
Here is a shot of the finished product.