Enviro. Horticulture, Pears, Cherries, and Viticulture
University of California
Enviro. Horticulture, Pears, Cherries, and Viticulture

Tall Spindle Axe (TSA)

The Tall Spindle Axe (TSA) training system can produce excellent trees with high production, but only with dwarfing rootstocks. Trees should preferably not be headed at planting, but even if headed, a new leader can be established. Training is highly labor intensive initially, as all lateral shoots that grow upward must be bent to horizontal or slightly above horizontal with string tied to wires or the trunk.

Tree spacing should be 5 to 6 feet, depending on expected vigor (farther apart with more vigor), and row spacing should not be closer than about 10 to 12 feet. Trees will be kept to 10 to 12 feet high.

Trees to be trained to a TSA should ideally not be headed in the nursery. At planting, remove buds below the tip by grabbing around stem and turning while squeezing, then remove some of the buds below that, leaving buds about 2 to 3 inches apart. (Photo by Greg Lang)
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Shoots on this tree at Michigan State University should have been spread earlier, so now two pins were required for each shoot. (Photo by Greg Lang)
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Joe Grant using clothes pins to spread young shoots on a TSA (spindle) tree, April 30, 2010. Buds were previously removed as shown above.
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Shoots spread on TSA tree, late April 2010.
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TSA tree in early June, 2010.
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Weak growth of TSA trees on Gi3 rootstock, July 2010.
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More vigorous growth of TSA trees on Gi5 (4 trees on left) and Gi6 (4 trees on right). Notice the small number of lateral shoots, necessitating their removal just before budbreak in 2011.
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Stage of bud growth that is ideal for application of Promalin.
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A bud that is too far expanded for Promalin to be effective.
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Painting Promalin on buds where shoots are desired. The Promalin is mixed with white paint.
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Promalin applied to buds where lateral shoot growth is desired. Existing side branches were later removed to promote new shoot development.
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Shoot growth starting in April 2011.
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Joe Grant using pool swim noodle slices to spread new shoots. The 2-year-old trunk was now too thick for clothes pins.
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But the chosen method was chopsticks attached with rubber bands.
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Seemingly ideal TSA tree on Gi6, June 2011.
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Lateral shoots tied down to reduce their vigor and increase their fruiting potential.
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TSA trees in June 2011: Two trees on Gi6 to the left of the yellow stake, four Gi5 trees left center, and four small Gi3 far left.
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Joe pondering the potentially the tall leaders on TSA trees on Gi6 and Gi5, Sept. 2011
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Weak growth of TSA trees on Gi3, June 2011. Gi3 rootstock is probably too slow and weak for the TSA system.
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