Why consider planting the Tall Spindle System?

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.  

Tall Spindle is a new apple training system mostly developed and described at Cornell University by Dr. Terence Robinson and Steve Hoying. This system is proving to be the best system for eastern United States’ apple growers because of its many advantages. The system consists of well feathered trees from the nursery, planted at a spacing of three to four feet by 11 to 12 feet (1000 to 1300 trees/acre). Trees are supported by a tall trellis, (12-foot poles, 3-feet in ground and 9-feet out). The trees are minimally pruned at planting time and limbs tied down below 90o during the first season to promote early fruiting and keep trees small and productive throughout their productive life. The branches are managed annually to keep trees compact and fruitful. Tall Spindle produces high yields of high quality fruit early in its life and can be in full bearing in four years. There are many trellis variations of a Tall Spindle system, some with two to five wires and some with and without tree stakes or support.

The Tall Spindle system is characterized by high early yields, easy to learn and teach system and early to full bearing orchards. In a trial at
Clarksville Horticulture Experiment Station, the best feathered trees in the third leaf produced nearly 400 bushels per acre. Tall Spindle will reach full bearing in the fourth year with annual yields of over 1,000 bushels per acre. Of course, there are risks with high density, but Tall Spindle has the best return potential of all apple systems.

Reasons to consider Tall Spindle

  • Growers live with new apple trees for 20-plus years.
  • It is the most cost effective, efficient apple training system.
  • It produces significant yields of high quality fruit in early and mature-bearing years.
  • It is highly adaptable to machine assisted practices (pruning, harvest).
  • It is a simple system and easy to learn.
  • It fits the natural growing characteristics of a high-density apple tree.
  • It maximizes the capture of sunlight.
  • It has little to no shaded (or wasted) space in the tree.
  • It maximizes yield per acre due to its tall (10- to 11-foot) tree height.
  • It is one of the best carbon footprint apple production systems.

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