|Pruning 4-N-1 Apple Tree|
Question: I just bought and planted an LE Cooke bare root apple from my local nursery. It is a 4in1 and is about 8 feet tall and beautifully branched. It was not pruned by my nursery and they advised me not to prune any of the main graft branches but only some of the side branches. I was under the impression that I should severely prune bare root trees upon planting. How should I prune this 4in1 for maximum success?
Thank you for the complements on the 4-N-1 Trees. A lot of labor goes into those trees to make them nice - which (unfortunately) has to be reflected in the price paid for them. But that is a small price to pay for having fresh apples all season long from early summer to autumn. (More on 4-N-1 Apples can be read here)
I agree with you that bareroot trees should be pruned upon (or before) planting. How "severely" is a matter of debate or at least discussion. And that depends upon the type of fruit tree. Apples happen to be the most forgiving of all the trees we grow - it is hard to kill an apple tree accidentally. Others are not so forgiving.
The purpose of pruning is to help the tree survive the transplant. Digging a dormant tree removes a lot of root. The roots, when dormant, store the food that will feed the tree and provide the "push" to develop new leaves and new feeder roots. The roots also provide the water and nutrients when the leaves start to develop. If the top is too large and the roots have not had time to re-grow themselves to support the top, then the leaves will begin to transpire water and oxygen (part of photosynthesis) and the leaves will wilt since it cannot get enough water. If the top is reduced, it lessens that possibility. Then the newely established roots can support a smaller top.
How much to cut?
That depends upon the type of tree and how you want it to branch.
Your 4-N-1 Apple already has 4 main branches (one for each variety) that already dictates the main structure. I see no need to remove more than one third to one half of each branch. You might also want to clean out any branches that will be crossing the middle. Make your cuts above a bud where that bud points in a direction you want that future new branch to go.