The general idea behind apple tree pruning is to train a young apple tree to develop effectively before encouraging the best production of high-quality fruit as the tree matures.
By teaching a young apple tree to grow "properly," you can help it establish a robust structure that will support heavy apple development while also giving you an easy-to-manage tree form in the future. A good training and pruning program for apple trees encourages vigorous growth of only the branches you want to maintain as permanent elements of the mature tree.
Annual pruning becomes the way of maintaining the ideal shape and encouraging the best fruit output once the young apple tree has been educated for several years to create its shape. The majority of pruning is done to promote growth, and it is done in late winter while the trees are dormant. Pruning wounds heal faster this way, and blossom buds are easier to see. Late summer is also a good time to prune your trees, but only if you want to slow down their growth.
So, what's the secret to apple tree pruning? Simply said, the greatest apples will grow on two to five-year-old branches. Pruning the older branches out each year, enabling younger branches to replace them, will ensure a steady supply of branches at this age.
Here's how to do it:
Basic Pruning Techniques for Apple Trees
The majority of apple trees planted by home gardeners are small to medium in size, and they respond best to the central-leader or pyramid pruning strategy. The central-leader pruning strategy is best for trees with a dominating central trunk and regular lateral branches. It's basically a cone or pyramid-shaped tree.
The central leader trimming approach allows more sunshine to reach the tree's interior. Basically, the upper branches are pruned to remain shorter than the lower ones. The spacing between the upper and lower branches is critical, and on a mature tree, a reasonable rule of thumb is to maintain the branches about three feet apart.
It's critical to make clean cuts, so use good-quality, sharp pruning shears for smaller cuts and sharp lopping shears and saws for larger ones. Shears with two sharp sides (as opposed to one sharp and one blunt side) are preferable to those with one sharp and one blunt side.
The first step is to remove any branches that are dead, damaged, or unhealthy. Cut any timber that crosses over or crowds other branches out as well.
After that, find the central leader and prune any limbs that are competing with it. Examine the tree to see which branches you wish to maintain. Your goal is to preserve as many horizontal branches as possible while reducing the number of vertical branches.
Remove any limbs that cast an excessive amount of shade. Remember to prune two or three of the tree's oldest, bigger branches when trimming a mature tree. Consider their location and whether or not a younger replacement branch is close. You'll see that this decision is frequently simple.
Remove suckers from the tree's base, as well as spindly shoots and water sprouts from the branches. Leave no stubs in your pruning cuts, which should be nearly but not fully flush with the branch (these can become hosts to rot and disease.) The wound will not heal as rapidly if you make a pruning cut that is totally flush with the limb or trunk.
If you're pruning apple trees that have been neglected, don't prune them too severely all at once. Excessive pruning might shock the tree's system, so do it over the course of two or three years.
What is the best pruning instructor? Experience! If you learn how to prune apple trees by following good, fundamental fruit tree pruning instructions, you'll be a seasoned pro in no time. A few erroneous cuttings are far preferable to no trimming at all.