Pruning Apple Trees

Tips for Pruning Apple Trees

Take advantage of the above freezing temperature in April to prune your apple trees. Pruning is an important cultural operation in fruit tree production as it enhances the quality of your apple fruit. In fruit trees, pruning opens up the canopy allowing better air movement, light penetration, and in turn reducing the pest and disease occurrence. You can also reduce the height of the fruit tree which enhances better spray coverage and helps in easy picking of the fruit. Prune trees when the air temperature is above freezing; however don’t prune during wet or snowy weather. Dormant pruning is best done before bud break.

What to prune in young apple trees:

  • Remove any dead, diseased, or broken branches to its point of attachment.
  • Thin out most of the water sprouts that compete with the trunk and other main branches for light. Water sprouts are vigorous shoots that are formed on the scaffold branches (main branches) and also commonly seen at the cut ends from last year’s pruning. You may leave a few water sprouts on the outer branches or to fill in any open spots in the canopy area.
  • Prune off all the suckers that grow from the base of the tree.
  • Branches that are crisscrossing over other branches or growing parallel to each other can be removed.
  • Perform a heading cut or if necessary thin out any long growing branches or limbs that shade out the lower branches. In apple trees, the lower branches need to be wider than the upper branches for better distribution of sunlight to all the branches.
  • When pruning large branches, make a smooth and close cut to the branch collar region. Don’t leave a stub.
  • Disinfect the pruning tool with 70% rubbing alcohol or Lysol solution after you are finished pruning each fruit tree.

Training young apple tree is equally as important as pruning for better fruit production. In training, the branches are positioned equally apart in a better angle for maximum fruit production and to develop good structural framework of the tree. Depending on the size of the branches and the tree maturity, various limb positioning techniques can be adapted. The limbs are positioned to form a 60 degree crotch angle from the leader. Please refer to the UW Extension publication A-1959 on “Training and Pruning Apple Trees” for more detailed information on those limb positioning techniques.

It is much easier to train young apple trees than a mature old tree. The best time to train young branches is during early summer (June) whereas mature branches can be positioned during dormant pruning or in early summer.

Vijay Pandian, Brown Co. UW-Extension Horticulture Educator

Posted by Vicki

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