Pruning Apple Trees
With the warming weather and approaching spring season, the trees are coming out of their dormant season. With the winter waning and spring upon us, it is time to start thinking about tending to the yard. If you have any fruit trees, it is time to get them pruned. When pruning trees, there are some guidelines to follow for optimal results. This hub is specifically dedicated to pruning apple trees.
If you have apple trees that been kept up with, pruning will be easier. The first thing to remember is to make the trees manageable. While the trees will perform differently depending on their shape, there is not one perfect size and shape for the trees. Some people prefer a shorter, wider tree, while other people perform a thinner, taller one. The way you prune will control the shape and size of the tree. It is just crucial that the tree is manageable to you. If it is too tall for you, than you will not be able to reach the top with spray or pick the apples. You need to be comfortable with the size of your tree.
In order to best understand the pruning, let’s go over a few terms first to help add clarity to what is being talked about.
· Suckers – also called shoots or sprouts, these grow straight up and drain nutrients
· Stubs – broken or injured branches
· Crotch – where one branch meets another
· Whorls – where several branches originate at the same point
Sometimes it can be a daunting task to start off with pruning. You take one look at the trees, and you are simply overwhelmed. The best place to start is with the suckers. These are the shoots that are taking up energy that could go to produce fruit or help the tree grow. Often, they grow in clusters. These are easy to trim out because they are very obvious. For the most part, you want to trim out all the shoots, but sometimes, you will leave one or two that you hope to develop into a branch. You will likely need to prune again near the end of June because more shoots will develop.
Another relatively obvious thing to prune out are the stubs. It is crucial to eliminate broken branches from the tree. They are using up energy and not producing fruit. These branches can be the result of storm damage, old age, or just being broken from the weight of too much fruit. They should be cut back to the healthy branch.
Once those two simple tasks are taken care of, the actual pruning starts to take place. This is where you will have to be more decisive about what you want to cut out. You need to start off with a plan about how you want to open the tree up and make it look. Take a look for whorls. Where there are several branches, the tree will be weaker if they are all allowed to grow. Pick the best one, and cut the rest out. Also look for interior branches that do not get much sunlight because they are shaded. These inner branches will not produce many good apples due to the lack of light. Trim those branches out.
Branches that are growing downward are also no good. These downward growing branches generally produce few fruit buds. If they are near the bottom of the tree, they are simply growing towards the ground and get too low. If they are higher up in the tree, growing down will cause them to create more problems in the future. One problem they could create would be rubbing branches. When braches are touching and rubbing against one another, they are competing for space and light. The rub can also damage the bark and make the tree susceptible to disease. Choose the less productive of the rubbing branches, and cut it out.
If your tree has not been pruned for several years, it will take some time to get it back into form. You will not be able to prune it all away at once because this will shock the tree. Be sure to use appropriate clippers and pruning shears. Do not use a hedge trimmers or simply top the tree. Use a handsaw when cutting larger branches because a chainsaw can tear the tree up and cause damage. Make sure to always cut the branch back to a lateral (where another branch is coming out) instead of just cutting it off anywhere. There is no exact science to pruning, and it will take some time to learn the best ways for your trees. Obliviously, make the tree right for you.