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February 27, 2018

A Guide to Pruning Apple Trees

One of our most common questions at this time of the year is how to prune apple trees – so we thought we’d write a blog post about it!  We asked you to submit your questions, and we are going to answer them!  Pruning is so important, so let us guide you to a healthy and happy apple tree!

Materials needed:

  • pruners or any other tool that can be safely used to trim branches
  • ladder
  • safety glasses

How to do it:

The first step to pruning an apple tree is to cut off any sucker growth.  These branches are usually easy to spot, as they are the branches that grow straight up in the air.  Cut all of them off at the base.  New sucker shoots grow each year, so it’s important to prune them as they can take energy away from apple production.

The next step is removing any dead or diseased branches.  Overall tree health is so important to both the longevity of the tree and fruit production.  If you notice any diseased branches on your tree, make sure you discard them after you prune them!

After this is done, it’s time to look at the tree and shape it.  You will first want to look at any branches that are “criss crossed” or in a forked “Y” shape.  Prune these away.  Imagine the tree in the summertime – you want good airflow between all of the branches, and you want sunlight to be able to get into the tree.

Lastly, when shaping the tree, prune it to your desired height and width.  Think of how you will be harvesting your apples, and prune accordingly.  A tree that is too tall may be difficult to pick from.  A tree that is too wide may interfere with other plants in your yard.  Also, keep in mind that a young tree you may have recently planted will require less pruning than an older apple tree in your yard.

Pruning doesn’t have to be a difficult task!  It can actually be quite rewarding to take this step now to ensure a plentiful apple crop later in the season.

Check out this video to see how we do it!

Other FAQ’s about pruning apple trees:

Q: What do I use to prune my apple tree? I only have small hand pruners!

A: Depending on the size of your tree, hand pruners will work just fine!  For any larger branches, you may need to use a small hand saw.

Q: How much can I take off of my fruit tree?

A: A good rule of thumb to follow is never take more than one third off the tree.

Q: I also have pear trees and plum trees.  How do I prune these?

A: You can follow our apple pruning guidelines and apply them to pear and plum trees as well.

Q: Do you give lessons on pruning?

A: At this time, we do not give lessons on pruning.  However, we are always here to help, so never hesitate to stop by with any questions!  We hope this blog post and video help give you the confidence you need to prune your fruit trees.

Q: I just moved into a new home and there is a very large apple tree that the previous owners never pruned.  What do I do?

A: Getting a mature tree into the shape and size that you want may take two seasons since you should only prune one third of the tree branches away at a time.  Start off by removing any large limbs that are growing in the wrong direction (may have to use a chainsaw), prune the suckers and then work on the branches that are criss crossing your tree.  This same step will need to be repeated again in the second year.

Q: When do I prune?
A: In this area, the ideal time to prune an apple tree is in from mid-February through the month of March (sometimes beginning of April is good, too!).  It may vary each year depending on weather.  You want to get this done before the tree buds out!

Check out another one of our pruning videos here!  And if you want to learn more about our apple orchard, click here!

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