Training fruit trees to a central leader
1. Choose the first set of three to five scaffold branches (for simplicity, only two are shown in these illustrations). Do this at planting time if the tree is satisfactorily branched; otherwise, head back the trunk and wait until the first dormant season, when new branches will have grown. Shorten or remove any shoots competing with the leader. Head back the leader to just above buds to get a second tier of branches 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 feet above the first.
2. The next dormant season, choose a higher set of scaffolds. Remove ill-placed branches and head back the leader, if necessary, to get branching at the proper distance above the previous tier. Head back the scaffolds to force branching.
3. For good light penetration ― important for growth and ripening of fruit ― maintain some open space between tiers and keep the limbs toward the top of the tree shorter than those toward the bottom. Don’t allow fruit to set on the leader (this would cause the leader to bend).