Training goes hand in hand with pruning to develop a stronger and more productive tree.  One of our goals is to develop healthy crotch angles between the scaffold branches and the trunk.  A narrow angle of less than 45 degrees is much weaker and susceptible to damage from winds, snow or heavy fruit loads.  The narrower it is, the weaker it is.  Sometimes these narrow angles will spit some leaving a possible entry site for infection. 

Many apple varieties are more vertical in their growing habits than others, so look carefully at your trees by type. Some will require minimal maintenance; others it seems need help with every branch.  All European

Pears have very upright branching habit

Pears are prone to vertical growth and usually require some intervention for best production. Our aim is to get the main scaffold branches to develop a crotch angle of 45 degrees or even more.  This training should be done in the spring (now is a perfect time) while the branches are limber.  By mid-summer they become rigid and are easily broken.

This process is usually aided by the use of “branch spreaders”, a fancy term that means anything you can wedge in between the branch and trunk to spread the branch more horizontally. Sticks which are notched at the ends are perfect, paint stir sticks, again notched, can be cut to length and used.  Dowels with a finish nail in each end can work.  Sometimes tying the branch down with string or twine to another branch is

Branch Spreaders in place on small apple tree

accomplished.  Weights hung with fishing line to bring small branches down is often a technique that is employed.  Very small new branches just emerging from the trunk can often be directed with a clothes pin clamped onto the trunk.  Some low and larger branches may be tied to a stake in the ground.  Basically anyway you can devise to spread that branch will work.

Remember this training is temporary since the branch will become rigid by mid or late summer and your “training aid” can then be removed.  This training once done will not have to be repeated ever on the same branch.  By bringing those branches down to at least 45 degrees your trees will be stronger and produce much more fruit.