We have begun growing our apples and some pears using a slightly different method of growing, as developed by nurseries like Fleuren and Hostetler Farms. Knipboom fruit trees are relatively unknown in Canada, but are now the standard in Europe. With a little change of operations we can get a larger tree which will bear fruit sooner sooner, in the same time frame here at the nursery as the traditional chip budded trees.
With this new growing technique, the trees are bench grafted in spring, then planted and left to grow for a year, then cut around the 65cm mark while dormant; we keep the lower part of the tree pruned until May in the second year, which pushes the trees into an explosive growth during their second year, as shown below. Traditionally chip grafted trees just don't have that advantage and only grow as whips, with possible feathering. Our trees are a mix of knipboom's and chip budded(grafted) trees: some are feathered and some are whips, and some we consider 2-year grade trees (Knipbooms).
Whips & feathered trees: these are 1 meter minimum, whips have no branching, and feathered trees have some branching. These are the industry standard for one year tree.
2 Year/Knipbooms: these are 1 meter minimum with 3 or more branches 30cm or longer, which is the industry standard for 2-year old trees. They cost $3 more than whips/feathered trees.
On staking and straightness: over the years, we have begun staking less and less; while this means the trees do have a little more character, and aren't as rim-rod straight as some other nurseries', it also means they have endured the weather, on their own. They have bent back and forth in the wind, building layer after layer of lignin. Lignin is key to building cell walls in trees (bark), and responsible for creating strength and rigidity in a tree. So while our trees may not be straight as an arrow, they are strong and have stood the test of 80km winds, that heavy, wet snow in late October and winter ice storms, and come out more resilient than before. Rest assured, trees are living beings, and we (in our humble opinion!) are controlling them plenty enough by grafting them, pruning them, choosing where they live and to some degree, what they eat. See the beauty in an apple tree making it's own unique gnarled way in this world!
Note also - as these are young trees, should you wish to train them up prim and proper, it will be easily done with staking the first few years (indefinitely for dwarfs), as you would even if the tree was perfectly straight to begin with. And staking is still a good idea for the first couple years, even if you share our sentiments, and especially if you have heavy prevailing winds.