Pruning is an important part of the maintenance of any tree. This is especially true for fruit trees like an apple tree. By pruning these trees you are keeping them much healthier and in the long term easier to maintain. If apple trees aren’t pruned it will lead to a reduction in fruit production.
The best time to prune an apple tree is in the winter. Between the months of November and March or when the leaves have fallen from the tree are good indicators of the best time.
The equipment required to accomplish this task are:
- A stepladder
- Secateurs – extendable if possible
- A Pruning saw
You won’t necessarily need all of the above tools in order to complete this task.
Please make sure all cutting implements are sharp!
Notes on Pruning
So our goal is to take 10-20% off of the overall canopy. We don’t want to remove too much or regrowth will be too extensive.
The end shape of the crown should be that of a goblet. Occasionally step back to get a broad perspective on the shape of your tree.
Make sure your cuts are clean and not at an angle. This will keep your tree healthier for longer.
It is worth remembering that horizontal branches will provide you with more fruit than vertical ones.
How to Prune
OK, lets get started. Remove any weak and damaged branches first.
Next remove those branches that cross over each other or rub against each other
If the bottom of the trunk has any sprouts these can also be removed.
Don’t cut side shoots, in the future they can produce fruit buds. Only if they are growing within about 5 inches of one another at the base – this is too crowded.
Spurs that are growing on the bottom of branches may not receive enough light to develop fruit fully. Remove these too.
As we previously mentioned we are aiming at an open goblet shape for the crown of the tree.
If the tree hasn’t been well maintained
If it has been a long time since the tree has been pruned then you want to open the centre of the tree by removing some large branches. We recommend you do this a piece at a time to avoid causing yourself any harm. This may need to be done over a few years.
You may find the tree needs some summer pruning. This will be necessary if the growth is too vigorous. Pruning in the summer won’t lead to even more vigorous growth like winter pruning can.
Look out for fruit with brown rot. This needs to be removed and disposed of. Don’t let it get into contact with other trees.
If there are many dead, damaged or diseased branches we recommend you contact a professional. You may have a serious issue with the health of your tree.