I live in Rock Springs Wyoming, altitude 6200 ft, with harsh cold winters....

Asked November 15, 2014, 10:21 AM EST

I live in Rock Springs Wyoming, altitude 6200 ft, with harsh cold winters. Not a lot of snow, but cold, windy, icy, temperatures in the winter. I planted 2014 spring, two apple trees, one Macintosh and one Honeycrisp, to train as espalier trees. How, or what should I do to protect these trees this winter? I watered a deep slow water before the early cold snap that we got this past week (-8 below with a -30 wind chill). Both of these trees are rated for my growing season of 4, but do I need to burlap wrap them somehow or provide protection in some other way? What if we have a cold snap now and then have a two week warm spell later and they are all wrapped up, will that cause more harm than good? This is my first attempt at growing fruit trees, so any advice would be helpful. The Macintosh grew 6 feet tall on the leader branch with the Honeycrisp only growing 4 feet tall. The bottom branches of the Macintosh are about 4 feet in horizontal length with the Honeycrisp at 3 feet in length. Also, next spring while the trees are still dormant, the original plan was to cut the leader branch at the next horizontal wire to encourage a new leader branch and two more horizontal branches. Because the Macintosh grew so tall, however, I am wondering if I could just cut a small section of bark out of the leader just above where a bud is to encourage the growth of that horizontal bud at each of the horizontal levels, thus creating all the horizontal branches this next summer at once instead of creating one level each year as the espalier books from the library have suggested. Thanks, Colleen Bunn

Sweetwater County Wyoming

1 Response

Typically, your best winter protection is to either wrap the trunk with a white colored trunk wrap, or to paint it with interior latex paint diluted 1:1 in water. Both of these approaches keep the bark from warming up on sunny winter days, which will prevent southwest winter injury.

As far as training for next season, it really depends on bud survival and budbreak. If you get some winter tip dieback, which is not uncommon in your climate, then you should get plenty of lateral budbreak that can provide side-shoots for the second wire. The current thinking in these types of managed plantings is to avoid heavy pruning cuts, as these only cause excessive vegetative vigor and delayed flowering and fruiting. You don't mention the rootstocks you used, but keeping the tree maintained in a dwarf managed canopy requires precocious fruit production.

It isn't surprising that the Honeycrisp is putting out less vegetative growth than the Mac. Honeycrisp tends to be a slow grower and should be a good choice for your training system.