When To Prune Apple Trees? Apple tree pruning isn’t as easy as some people may think. There are basics that you need to understand.
You need to know when it’s alright to prune and when it’s not, why you need to prune, and more importantly, exactly how to prune your apple tree.
When To Prune Your Apple Tree
The best time to prune most trees is when they are sleeping or dormant before new growth begins.
For apple trees that time would be at the very end of winter or the beginning of spring.
After you cut it will give your tree time to heal and dry up before all the insects come out to feed.
Another reason is with most of the leaves gone from the cold winter.
It’s easier to see where the new buds are so you don’t accidentally cut them.
If you want to prune in the summer.
This can be done at the end of July or beginning of August.
Need to remember to make it a light pruning.
You do not want to do a severe pruning at this time.
Because it will weaken your tree.
Make your fruit smaller and it takes the chance in making the branches so weak that they will break under the weight of the fruit.
How To Prune Your Apple Tree
There are three different ways/shapes to prune your tree.
The first is the natural shape. This simply means that you just let your tree grow with little pruning.
The bad side to this is you often end up with a tree that is too tall for you to reach the top and it also leads to smaller apples.
It honestly is not the healthiest decision for your tree.
The second way is to prune your tree into one of two shapes.
You can either have one big trunk that grows upward and is the dominant branch of the tree with a lot of limbs growing off of it in a horizontal direction.
This is best for trees that are short.
You can also make it to where you have two (or even more) dominant branches that grow upwards.
Growing away from the middle of your tree.
To shape your tree this way helps to keep it shorter when you’re trying to grow a full – sized apple tree.
The third way to shape your tree.
Is to lattice it to fit into a certain amount of space which is usually done to have a vine – like tree that runs up a trellis.
This is mainly for those with a small yard or limited space left in their yard.
How To Cut?
There are basically two types of cuts you can make when pruning your apple tree.
Thinning cuts will reduce the number of branches on your tree.
Heading cuts will increase the number of branches (promotes shoot growth) on your tree.
Thinning cuts are the removal of the entire branch where it joins the limb.
It has less of an impact on the look of your tree and it increases development of new flower buds.
Heading cuts remove only part of the branch. These cuts will change the direction in which the branch grows so it changes the look of the apple tree.
Why Do I Need To Prune?
There are five main reasons to prune your tree.
- It removes dead branches.
- Has an open canopy for larger fruit to grow.
- Gives air circulation which helps to control pest and disease problems.
- The tree will stay short enough to be easy to maintain.
- It gets more sunlight which helps to strengthen the branches and increase flowering.
If the tree is too crowded then there will be limited room for apples to grow.
It ends up producing a lot of little apples.
The more apples on a tree the less nutrients each apple gets.
The fewer apples, the more nutrients each one gets and the bigger they will grow.
Tools You Will Need
For correct pruning you will need shears, loppers and a saw.
Shears work perfectly for the smaller branches.
Loppers work best on the medium sized branches.
You will need a saw for the larger tree branches.
Remember to always keep your tools sharp.
And before each use make sure to wet a cloth with alcohol and wipe down the blades of your tools.
This will disinfect them and prevent the transfer of any diseases.
Five Steps To Prune Your Apple Tree
Look closely at your tree, find any branches that are too long.
Any dead or dying branches with disease and any spots that are overcrowded.
Cut away any damaged or dead branches and all areas that look diseased.
Also remove any suckers at the bottom of the truck.
If the entire branch is dead, use a thinning cut to remove it.
If only the tip is dead then remove the dead part with a heading cut.
Cut down branches that are too long with thinning cuts.
You can simply cut it back to make a shorter branch using a heading cut.
Open up the area near the center/middle of the tree to allow more air and sunlight in.
If you have any branches that are crossing over each other or too close together then remove one of them.
Cut to shape your tree just like you would when giving a haircut.
This helps your branches to grow thicker but shorter.
Make sure to remove about 25 percent of the growth that is still active from the previous year.
Tips For Pruning
Do not over – prune. Over – pruning can cause your branches to weaken and break under the weigh of the fruit.
If you have to choose between one branch or another to keep, always keep the one with most buds on it.
Remove larger branches in small sections, this makes it safer for you to work.
Do not prune a new planted tree after you perform the first pruning.
For the next couple of years do not prune the tree until they begin growing fruit.
If you prune new trees before they begin to produce fruit it will delay the fruit growing process.
Remove branches that grow downward and the ones that grow straight up.
Branches growing downward are usually weak and will not bear fruit.
The branches that grow straight up will put a shadow over the lower branches not allowing the sunlight to reach them.
After you are finished pruning your apple tree, make sure to wipes your tools down and put them up for the next pruning season.
Also as important is making sure that you clean up all of the branches you have pruned from your tree.
This keeps any insects that may have been infecting those branches from getting to your tree and infecting it.
It also makes sure no diseases are transferred from those branches to your tree.
Following these simple rules and tips should give you a healthy tree that promotes the growth of large, delicious apple, so enjoy!