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High Density Apple Growing Techniques

Increase the yield while conserving space with Gilby's High Density Tree Growing program. This pertains to Dwarf Apple Trees from Gilby's Orchard in Aitkin, MN.

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High Density at Gilby’s Slender Spindle
2018
What Is a High Density Orchard?
• A high density orchard is defined as any
orchard with more than 150-180 trees per
acre. However, many highly productive
commercial orchards today have 150-180
trees per acre and higher density could be
anything over 180 trees per acre.
What Is a High Density Orchard?
• Besides having an increased number of trees
per acre, a high density orchard must come
into bearing within 2-3 years after planting. To
achieve this early production, it is essential to
use a precocious dwarfing rootstock. Although
it is possible to restrict the growth of trees on
semi-dwarf rootstocks, they do not have the
genetic capacity for early bearing.
Rootstocks for High Density Orchards
• High density orchards require trees
propagated on dwarfing rootstocks. Presently,
only three commercially available rootstock
groups or types can be recommended to
develop a high density orchard system for
North Central MN. The rootstocks that are
commercially available to fit this niche are
Bud.9, G41 and M.26.
Planting and Protecting your Trees
• Plant trees 42” – 5’ apart
• Make sure bud union is 1”
above the ground no
more and no less.
• Don’t over amend the soil
going back into the hole
• Install White plastic tree
wrap and ½” hardware
cloth.
1st Pruning
• 1st Tree training for high density orchards
begins at planting. If an unbranched or whip
tree is purchased, head the tree at 30 to 34
inches. If a well-branched (feathered) tree is
planted, remove all branches within 24 inches
of the ground and head the leader 10 inches
above the top (usable) lateral branch.
Feathered trees will increase early fruit
production.

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High Density Apple Growing Techniques

  • 1. High Density at Gilby’s Slender Spindle 2018
  • 2. What Is a High Density Orchard? • A high density orchard is defined as any orchard with more than 150-180 trees per acre. However, many highly productive commercial orchards today have 150-180 trees per acre and higher density could be anything over 180 trees per acre.
  • 3. What Is a High Density Orchard? • Besides having an increased number of trees per acre, a high density orchard must come into bearing within 2-3 years after planting. To achieve this early production, it is essential to use a precocious dwarfing rootstock. Although it is possible to restrict the growth of trees on semi-dwarf rootstocks, they do not have the genetic capacity for early bearing.
  • 4. Rootstocks for High Density Orchards • High density orchards require trees propagated on dwarfing rootstocks. Presently, only three commercially available rootstock groups or types can be recommended to develop a high density orchard system for North Central MN. The rootstocks that are commercially available to fit this niche are Bud.9, G41 and M.26.
  • 5. Planting and Protecting your Trees • Plant trees 42” – 5’ apart • Make sure bud union is 1” above the ground no more and no less. • Don’t over amend the soil going back into the hole • Install White plastic tree wrap and ½” hardware cloth.
  • 6. 1st Pruning • 1st Tree training for high density orchards begins at planting. If an unbranched or whip tree is purchased, head the tree at 30 to 34 inches. If a well-branched (feathered) tree is planted, remove all branches within 24 inches of the ground and head the leader 10 inches above the top (usable) lateral branch. Feathered trees will increase early fruit production.
  • 7. It is all about Balance!!! • Look at your root system…. • If you have a full strong looking root system you should not have to prune as much off the tree. • If you have a weak root system you will have to prune more off your tree. • Your Goal Balance your root system to your tree.
  • 8. Building 4 Wire Support System • End Pole 5” by 14’ plant 6’ deep • In line poles 4” 12’ plant 4’ deep • Space poles 25-30’ apart • Tree Spacing 42”- 48” apart
  • 9. Building 4 Wire Support System • 1st wire 30” off ground • 2nd wire 24” spacing • 3rd wire 24” spacing • 4th wire 24” spacing
  • 10. Building 4 Wire Support System
  • 11. High Density Tree Ties • Dwarf Trees MUST be supported or they will break.
  • 12. 1st leaf No Apples
  • 13. 2nd leaf a couple apples on very healthy trees
  • 14. 3rd leaf about 12 apples on healthy trees
  • 15. Tree Establishment • Second, the trees must receive adequate, uniform moisture during the growing season to maintain tree growth, and irrigation is highly recommended as an insurance against drought. • Third, all weed competition in the tree row should be eliminated with herbicides. Don’t go any wider with the herbicide strip then you need to. I don’t recommend using Herbicide for the 1st year. • Pendamethalin Weed Control and Relie for Burn down • Foliar Feed at least 3 times 2 weeks apart starting at pink
  • 16. Your Goal • Get your Leader to 8’ as soon as possible.
  • 17. Lateral-Branch Management • The branching should begin at approximately 24 to 32 inches above the soil surface. • During the 1st 5 years most lateral branches are left on the tree to optimize early production.
  • 18. Lateral-Branch Management • Branches are thinned out as shading becomes a problem in the 3rd to 5th year or later as required. • All branches are temporary and are renewed every 2 to 4 years. Or once they reach about ¾”! • The maximum branch spread of this tree outward from the leader is approximately 3 to 5 feet.
  • 19. Lateral-Branch Management • When the emerging lateral branches are 3 to 6 inches long, they should be spread outward to develop a wide crotch angle which will form a strong union for future fruit production. Two tools that are effective for spreading branches are toothpicks or spring loaded clothespins. Branches are spread outward as they are 3 to 6 inches long and maintained to approximately an 80 to 85o angle. As the branches grow, the branch can be held down with concrete weights attached to clothespins and clipped to the branch or by tying down with string or twine wrapped loosely around the limb and to the base of the tree stake or clips in the soil.
  • 20. Lateral-Branch Management • All upright secondary growth on the lateral branches is pulled over to horizontal with weights or pulled over and clipped to other lateral branches or removed when 3 to 4 inches long. • Lateral branches that are spread will grow slower due to reduced apical dominance, have more secondary branching and initiate flower buds much earlier due to the reduced vigor.
  • 21. Lateral-Branch Management • Again, the goal is to avoid pruning and promote early fruit production which is essential for both reducing tree vigor and pulling down lateral branches. • On newly planted trees, all branches with wide crotch angles are left during the first several years to increase initial cropping. If and when shading starts to become a problem in the center of the tree after approximately 3 to 5 years, branches are thinned out to maximize light penetration.
  • 22. Lateral-Branch Management • Lateral branches larger then ¾” should be remove. Use a dutch cut to encourage new growth. This is very important! See next slide!
  • 24. Lateral-Branch Management • Although high-density systems have many advantages, summer training and pruning must be conducted approximately every 4 to 6 weeks during the growing season.
  • 25. Leader Management • After planting an unbranched "whip," the traditional leader-management technique would be to head the leader or cut off the leader approximately 30 to 34 inches above ground just before budbreak. After approximately 3 to -4 inches of new growth, a new shoot would be selected as the leader from the 3 or 4 most terminal upright shoots and then all shoots beneath the new leader for approximately 4 inches would be removed. If a well-branched ("feathered") tree is planted with 5 to 9 usable branches with wide crotch angles, starting approximately 24 inches above the soil, then the trees should produce fruit at least 1 year earlier than a whip.
  • 26. Leader Management • The best leader-management techniques are those that do not rely upon pruning to maintain the tree shape. Research has shown that any pruning of young trees will reduce or delay fruit production early in the life of the orchard.
  • 27. Leader Management • A preferable leader-management technique is called "weak leader renewal" This management technique removes the vigorous upright leader and replaces it with a weaker branch to devigorate the leader, maximize branching, and encourage early fruit production. Weak leader renewal involves pruning the central leader during the dormant season or after bud break, if excessive vigor is a problem, just above the highest usable lateral.
  • 28. Leader Management • The lateral is then pulled up and headed at 12 inches and tied to the tree stake as the new leader. Weak leader renewal can also be used to maintain the leader in ensuing years. Weak leader renewal can also be used with feathered trees that have lower branches and no higher branches. The leader is removed above the highest usable lateral and then that lateral branch is pulled up to replace the leader.