apple tree wound on the leader

Asked March 27, 2016, 9:21 PM EDT

The leader stalk on our honey crisp broke last year. We attempted to repair the breakage and the stalk above the break is leafing and flowering. Three questions: 1. Do we leave the repair in place and let the tree continue to grow? or 2. Do we cut the stalk just below the break as it may not hold the weight of growing fruit through the season? 3. Do fruit trees need to have a middle leader stalk? Thank you!

Benton County Oregon

1 Response

It would be best to cut off the damaged limb. Many commercial orchards remove the central leader (the limb that is damaged on your tree) to improve air circulation and to make harvest easier, so there is no problem with removing it. We have and have had Honey Crisp trees for several years. You have to thin the blooms, and the apples as they develop or the weight of the fruit will and does break limbs, as you have experienced. In a couple of cases we have had the tree break at the graft because of the weight of the apples and wind. I recommend that you prune that limb just above the next healthy branch well below the damage. Don't make a flat cut, but cut at an angle so water will easily run off. Do not coat the cut with anything. The tree will heal itself. Your tree looks to be healthy. I expect you will have many years of enjoying excellent Honey Crisp Apples, one of my favorites. The Benton County Master Gardeners have pruning classes every year. You might want to attend one of those classes as they are excellent. You can check with the Benton County Extension Office for when the class is offered.