Training Tall Spindle Trees - Year 2
After the first year, a tree growing in a new Tall Spindle orchard should have a tall, straight leader, hopefully reaching the top wire (Figure 1) with a large number of fruitful side branches or scaffolds developed from feathers (Figure 2). The tree should be secured to the trellis or support stake at several points, and the under-tree area should be weed-free with either mulch or trickle lines to maintain adequate soil moisture.
To maintain the tree, here is a simplified training and pruning plan for Year 2:
- Remove scaffolds that are more than 50% the diameter of the leader. This is best done dormant, using a bevel cut to encourage renewal at this point (Figure 3).
- Remove competing branches to the leader. These can be totally removed or pinched back, depending on their vigour.
- Remove dead branches or tips.
- Simplify each scaffold branch by removing forks. This is also referred to as “singulate” or “columnarize” each branch (Figure 4).
- Tie down scaffolds that did not respond to last year’s efforts. Vigorous shoots may need to be secured below the horizontal.
- Encourage upright shoots to set fruit buds by tucking them under branches or clipping them down. Keep pruning to a minimum.
- If upright growth is excessive, look for the cause (eg. breakage, deer browsing, excess fertility, excess pruning).
- Remove root suckers or shoots on the trunk in the spring. Repeat once or twice as these could be entry points for fire blight (Figure 5).
Tree growth is needed to quickly fill the allotted space, and fruit buds are encouraged to start early cropping:
- Irrigate or water as necessary. Even in wet years, soils can dry in 7-10 days to 50% field capacity (the point where plant growth is affected).
- Ensure that leaders are fastened to a support to continue their dominance of the tree.
- Check leaders regularly for competing shoots to either remove or pinch back. For vigorous cultivars, bi-weekly checks may be required.
- Install permanent trellis if temporary support was used in the planting year.
- Hand thin fruit to 6-8” apart. Only allow cropping on strong scaffolds. Yield target is 100-150 bu/acre if possible.
- Scout weekly for insects and diseases. Manage aphids, leafhoppers, caterpillars and mites early to maximize tree growth and fruit bud development. When blossoms are present, use streptomycin sprays as predicted by MaryBlyt or Cougar Blight models.
- Keep weeds in check with herbicides, flaming or mulching. The critical weed-free period is from bud break to 30 days after bloom.
- Discourage deer or rodent feeding with fencing or other deterrents.