The ladder in the photo is 6 feet tall which gives you a good idea how fast this tree has grown. The graft union is about 2 feet from the ground and is painted white. Last year (the same year I grafted the tree), I trained the tree to a single central leader. The new graft responded by putting on over 6 feet of new growth in a single growing season. This Spring, buds all along the central leader broke and new shoots began to develop. However, growth has been most aggressive at the top of the tree.
My first step in pruning this tree was to climb the ladder and search out the very top of last year's growth (photo at left). I was amazed by how many new shoots had developed at the top of the tree. Not only did primary buds break and start growing into new shoots but many shoots had grown from secondary buds. Its no wonder this tree was looking so top heavy.
After parting the foliage, I identified one upward growing shoot to become my central leader. At that point, I removed all competing shoots at the top of the tree. Here's where I use the first part of the 2-foot rule. Measuring down from the apex of my new central leader I pruned off all lateral shoots within the top 2 feet.
To slow the growth of lateral branches and encourage diameter growth on both trunk and branches, I employed the second part of the 2-foot rule. All lateral branches were tip pruned to two feet in length.
For more detailed information on training young trees and the 2-foot rule click HERE to begin reading my six part series.