Q. I planted ten bareroot trees I picked up at the orchard yesterday. I followed the directions from your Blog and everything went really well. I cut them all off at approximately knee height but when I got to the apple, I wasn't quite sure what to do. Should I cut off any side branches? Leave desirable ones? Cut them partially back? Or just leave them alone? I am planting my trees in hedgerows 10' apart with 4' between trees.
A. In hedgerows make sure the trees are on very dwarfing rootstocks. M111 rootstock is probably not aggressive enough for planting that close. You could do them maybe six feet apart but four is really close.
|Birdseye view of young apple tree scaffold limb development|
If any of the branches can be bent down and they touch the ground they should be removed to the trunk. The lowest branches are probably going to be somewhere around 18 inches to 2 feet off of the ground.
On apples look for a whorl of branches, a minimum of four and probably a maximum of six, to leave attached to the trunk. These will be your scaffold limbs which are limbs that support other limbs which bear the fruit.
Otherwise, if this is to be a hedgerow, you can wire trellis the limbs to support them so they don't touch the ground and you could keep limbs as close to a foot off of the ground if you wanted to.
If you are not sure what to do even after reading this just remove the ones that you know are too close to the ground and leave the rest, come to the orchard so we can talk, and address the problem next year.