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The English Apple Man


2nd Feb 2024 - Pruning apple trees - Part 2

This week. The English Apple Man follows on from last week's pruning of Braeburn apple trees on the tree structure used by the progressive growers of today, by looking back at styles of pruning more popular with previous generations and a practical demonstration by Nick Dunn of Frank P Matthews Nursery of the system still used today by most apple growers: namely the Centre Leader Tree.


100 years ago many apple trees were still grown on Standard Trees with branches starting circa 6 feet above the ground. by the post World War 2 periods growers were turning to Bush Trees grown on M2 rootstock, but rapidly taking up M9 rootstock allowing smaller trees planted closer together.


Around 1960 a few growers were adopting the Centre Leader Tree on M9 rootstock planted at 12ft x 6ft.


As time progressed the centre leader tree, or Spindle Bush as it was popularly named became the standard format.


This format, with a few exceptions (4 row beds) has been the standard for 50-60 years. Closing the planting distance in the row led to more intensive planting, leading to the Super Spindle, and eventually the Hedgerow/Fruit Wall system highlighted in last week's English Apple Man Journal.


But the centre leader / spindle bush is still the dominant format on any/most fruit farms today.


In this week's Journal two pruning videos by Nick Dunn from Frank P Mathews demonstrate how to prune one year old and more mature (4-5 year) centre leader trees.

Below: classic image of a bush trained apple tree



Click on: Nick Dunn from FP Matthews pruning one year old Centre Leader trees


Below: Illustration of pruning cuts in years 1, 2, & 3 (by The EAM)



Click on Nick Dunn pruning 4-5 year old trees


Below: Mature Spindle Bush apple trees




For the gardener, all these systems are possible (dependent on size of the garden)


For those with the right situation, the Espalier is a system The EAM would recommend. The degree of 'devotion' to the format can be 'very detailed. or more 'relaxed' as demonstrated below:


Below: Classic Espalier



A few years ago, I gave my son three apple trees for his garden. The trees were planted in the front garden, but did not settle well! Anyway, he moved them into his back garden and planted them along the fence dividing his garden from his neighbour.


They settled well; perfect aspect with sun all day (well when shining) and with a little advice from his father, trained the trees along wires as Espaliers. Not classic, but a 'relaxed format'


The trees: a Gala, Braeburn and Scrumptious were joined by a Bladon Pippin. Four trees all growing well and producing excellent quality apples.


Below: From left. Gala, Braeburn, Scrumptious and Bladon Pippin with Sunflowers in attendance



Below: left. Braeburn apples and right. Braeburn tree



Below: left. Bladon Pippin and right. Scrumptious



That is all for this week


Take care


The English Apple Man