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How much to nip back apple's last year's growth?

16 years ago

In the discussions about summer vs. dormant pruning I realize I don't even know all the terms correctly.

I am in the habit, whether right or wrong, of cutting the last year's growth on my apple back about 50% during the dormant season.

I've always called that "pruning". But is it? I've started thinking of "Pruning" as removing branches to open or shape the tree, or to control size. BUT, I'm also thinking that the summer removal of small amounts of new leafy growth to control size and bushiness is also called pruning.

I needed to raise that question to make sure I'm asking my real question correctly. I plan to cut back last year's growth on my apple. My goal is to encourage the branch to become heavier in girth, i.e., to discourage legginess, and to encourage fruiting on grafted parts. The tree seems to have settled in at its current size, about 10 feet tall, so I don't feel the need to control for size.

A subsidiary issue is that there are a dozen varieties grafted to this Liberty: Gala, Fuji, Macoun, Montana Red, Sweet Sixteen, Yellow Delicious, Prairie Spy, Supreme, Haralson, Stayman Winesap, Rhode Island Greening, Unknown Old Tree In Country, State Fair, many several years old. Only the Gala and the Delicious have ever fruited, but the Liberty is a prolific bearer. I need to encourage fruiting on my grafts, but not on the Liberty.

I am so confused I'm just sitting on my hands. Should I cut back last year's growth now, this summer, or not at all? Does the degree of heading-back control what happens in the branch that's left, and how?

And Don, I promise not to argue with you if you give me advice! In fact, I'll probably even follow it.

Thanks to all for any help you care to offer.


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