Apple Tree Tips

Too Many Apples Can Be A Problem

The goal is usually to increase the number and size of apples on a tree. At times, especially on mature trees, you may get too many apples. When this is the case the apples are apt to be too small, or if they are normal sized, you either have to prop up the branches to avoid breakage, or do some thinning out. Breakage of this type is especially likely to occur if you’ve allowed vertical interior branches to grow and they become overburdened with fruit. When you are pruning apple trees in the winter, remember that fruit grows on old growth, and by cutting the old growth back to just a few spurs, you should reduce the number of apples the tree will bear. You’ll most likely end up with enough apples, but they should be larger apples. One big apple is better than three tiny ones any time.

Train That Tree!

Can an apple tree be trained? Certainly. Like training a dog, you’ll get a better response when the subject is young. By training an apple tree we mean of course, pruning it to direct its growth in the desired directions and pattern. A mature tree that has been neglected is a little harder to train, as it has become set in its ways. All is not lost however, but you may have to do some major pruning to get the tree back into a desired shape. There may be some large branches or major sections that have to be cut away The difference between training apple trees and pruning apple trees is really that training is, in a sense, preventive pruning. A well trained tree will usually require less extensive pruning on an annual basis.

By a well-trained apple tree we mean one that has a primary leader, and scaffolding branches extending more or less horizontally from the leader. Some of these horizontal branches will eventually become quite large, with other scaffolding branches extending out from them. These branches actually grow in somewhat of an upward direction making it easier for them to handle large loads of fruit. When pruning apple trees, don’t forget to cut back the top, by a few feet if necessary. While there’s nothing terribly wrong with a high tree, it can make harvesting the crop a little more difficult, plus the larger the tree, the bigger the job pruning and training becomes. The correct height of the tree though is the height you’re comfortable with. What you don’t want is to have the height determined by a large number of interior vertical branches. Train the tree as it grows.

Pruning A Young Tree

We’ve talked mainly about mature trees to this point. What about pruning apple trees that you’ve just brought home from the nursery? There trees are often “whips”, a single vertical stick with no branches. Unless the whip has been pre-trimmed, you want to cut it back to about 3 feet in height. This constitutes your initial pruning adventure and is enough to get things started. Cutting the whip back will encourage growth of lateral or scaffolding branches.

The bud that forms at the top will become the central leader of the tree and you’ll base future pruning and training around this leader. If your new tree has a few side branches, you still want to cut the top back, plus cut off branches near the ground, and cut back the other branches to 2 or 3 buds. This will get you started on a tree which will be pyramid shaped at first, which is what you want.

Your new tree should develop several side branches during the first growing season. After the tree has gone dormant, in mid-winter, you can cut some of the side branches off, leaving to the two or three strongest ones. Cut the remaining branches back slightly. As the tree grows during the following season you can keep more scaffolding branches and prune away crossing branches, suckers, and the like. Now you have a well-trained tree. A well-trained tree is a happy tree.

Pruning Apple Trees

Pruning Apple Trees Need Not Be Painful

If you happen to drive by an apple orchard in late winter, when the weather is still cold and there’s still snow on the ground, you’ll sometimes see a crew pruning apple trees with seeming reckless abandon. Instead of a snip here and a snip there, you’re witnessing a wholesale removal of branches.

Just how many branches should be removed when pruning apple trees often depends upon the size or age of the tree, and whether it has been allowed to become overgrown over a period of several years. You could very easily have a tree or two like that in your back yard if they’ve been neglected for several years. Sometimes the lack of anything approaching a bumper crop can be dismissed as an “off year”, but get several of those in a row and it could be that your apple trees need some attention.

The First Cut May Be The Hardest

Your first attempt at pruning apple trees might go something like this. You have the pruners or a saw in your hand but you’re hesitant to start. It’s a little like one’s first attempt at oil painting, often typified by a reluctance to touch the brush to the canvas. After all, if you make a mistake, haven’t you ruined the painting from the start? Unless you start on your apple tree by cutting into the trunk, you’re not apt to do too much damage. The fact of the matter is, if you simply cut away vegetation, with the goal of making the tree more attractive, you’ve probably done it a favor and, assuming you’ve pruned the tree at the right time of the year, you could well be rewarded with a much bigger harvest with much bigger apples.

The lesson in pruning apple trees, is that it is not as complicated as you may have feared. Certainly, there are some tips and techniques you should follow to do the best possible job. In addition, it’s always nice to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you cut this off or cut that back, what is the intended result? With a little knowledge about pruning, you’ll do a much better job, have fun doing it, and take pleasure in the end result a few months down the road. While your neighbor might think you’re attacking your trees with reckless abandon, probably killing them in the process, you’ll know exactly what you’re doing. You’re taking steps towards having the largest and most delicious apples in the whole neighborhood, if not the whole town.

Prune In Winter – Fine Tune In Summer

Pruning apple trees is done during two times of the year. The main pruning occurs during the winter months, when the tree is dormant. It is during this winter pruning session that you are essentially shaping the tree, and pruning to maximize the size of the summer crop. A second, lighter pruning is done during the late spring or early summer. This second pruning primarily involves removing unwanted vegetation, such as sprouts, which will not bear fruit, will direct energy away from fruit bearing branches, and may hamper air circulation among the branches. A profusion of sprouts and leggy branches also is not very pleasing from an aesthetic standpoint.

Which Branches To Cut

You obviously want to prune with a good crop in mind, but there are some things you can do first, without worrying too much about what and where to cut. Unless your tree is a very young one, with not too many branches to work with, there are probably a number of branches that can be lopped off. First off all, cut away any suckers. These are the straight branches growing vertically, which can be anywhere from a few inches in length, to several feet. Some look like fishing poles. Cut them off at the base. They do nothing for you, or the tree. Also cut away any broken branches. A broken branch, besides being unattractive, also can lead to the possibility of disease, just as can happen to us if we don’t attend to a break in our skin.

Can you see through the tree’s branches, or are they crowded? The next step is to tackle the inner branches. Cut away some of the criss-crossing branches, at least enough to “open up” the tree for improved air circulation. If the interior of the tree is too crowded, damp weather may bring on an attack of powdery mildew. Good air circulation can go a long ways towards preventing such an occurrence. If one of the branches is pointing towards the interior of the tree, cut that one off, if both are, cutting both off is a good idea. Also, apples do better if exposed to some sunshine. Cutting away excess branches will help here.

If two branches are rubbing, cut at least one of them off or cut it back. Also remove downward growing branches, and interior branches that are growing straight up, like suckers will do. Finally, when you’re pruning apple trees, it’s good practice to cut off weak branches and trim back branches that appear strong but have gotten too leggy.

When And How To Prune Apple Trees

When To Prune Apple Trees

It is very important to know when to prune apple trees. With consistent and properly timed pruning, you will allow much more fruitful growth and in return more apples. You will want to stick to the two main pruning times of year. One pruning in winter and one in summer.

Both times of the year have unique results on how the apple tree will be effected in further growth. This is is more accurate regarding the first season after the pruning. You and your apple tree will be rewarded nicely by taking the time to prune correctly and at the right time in the first year.

The scheduling on your pruning can be very important and you will want to avoid doing so too early. Early pruning can lead into dormant actions of the tree turning into early growth which can be harmful. You will have buds that will not grow to full potential and may possibly be gone for future years.

It can be difficult to give an exact time or schedule for when you should do your pruning due to the different climates and conditions around the planet. I would recommend you discuss this with your local garden center.

How To Prune An Apple Tree

The first thing you want to remember on how to prune an apple tree is to withdraw all dead, tarnished or rotten branches. Before you decide to chop into your tree, you should glance around for the area called the “branch collar”. It will be the compressed part near the bottom of your apple tree that will be joined to the base. It is this section of your tree that can heal all of its bruises. Always avoid this area while pruning your apple tree. Preferably chop into the area where the branches start to grow.

In the beginning 2 years, let the tree get established and set itself to the ground, before you start to do any pruning of the apple tree. Remember to always extract dead, tarnished or rotten branches.

Once you are into the 3rd year you can get right to abrasive pruning. Always start with taking out the illness in your apple tree, next step would be to go to the corners closer to the base of your tree , you want it to be more effectively spaced at around 45-50 degree edge. Don’t touch the frame branches.

Apple tree buds are blackish, twisted wood that become bigger in the corners of the tree. Never touch these if you want Apples. When you tree is almost at it’s 4th year, apples will be making an appearance.

Remove stray branches that cause problems towards your apple tree. You do not want water to accumulate and stimulate corrosion. You want to have good air transmission at the center. This all makes way for new beautiful blooms of apples to evolve within the tree. Another great tip is to always chip on top of the apple buds away from the tree.

Apple tree’s always have a principal branch. You don’t want to let anything get in it’s way to possibly destroy it. Always pick the healing branches and toss the bad ones. Great apple tree branches are constantly at a perfect range and spit out bucket’s full of apples.

Some final information: Remember you can always look to the bottom branches if some of your tree is looking unhealthy. Catch an apple bloom and chip into it right down to the bright green part. This bring out all the terrific effects.