In this article you will find out how to prune apple trees. (One of several articles from author on how to prune fruit trees). Pruning apple trees can be done several ways. This operation often causes concern, and considerable variation in ideas exists on subject, generally. Concerning bush trees in small garden, following points should be borne in mind. First, one may ask, "what happens if no pruning is done at all"?
The answer is that too much growth may be made, branches will be too congested and, although fruit will be borne, it may be smaller than it should be. Then, stage may be reached when growth will slow down, and too many fruit buds will be formed in relation to new growth. In short, one has to aim at a balance between wood (shoot) growth and fruit bud formation.
If very hard pruning is done after early years more wood growth than is needed may be produced and fruiting will be delayed. One method of how to prune apple trees to avoid, is cutting off of all new growth at same level each year, i.e. beheading a tree at a given height. This only encourages more wood growth, and gives tree little chance to make fruit spurs and fruit buds.
How to prune apple trees - Pruning of a young tree
To start with pruning of a young tree, after planting, this may have 3 or 4 main branches. The 1-year-old wood (the newest growth) should be cut back half way, to an outward-facing bud. Strong shoots may be cut back less hard, and weaker branches rather harder. Next autumn, or winter, new growth that arises from this cutting back is treated similarly. Keep only best two or three shoots that arise from original branches (leaders) and cut out any shoots that cross centre of bush, aim being to encourage an outward framework of branches, i.e. cup shaped.
The main shoots should be treated similarly for following years. Meanwhile, main branches will be furnished with side shoots (laterals) and all these that grow out from tree (outward that is) can be left their full length. Those growing inwards should be cut back each winter to two buds from base.
In connection with how to prune apple trees, in early years, question of whether fruit formed in first season after planting should be left or removed, is often raised. If tree is making good growth. I suggest that a few fruits be retained. To leave many may cause a check in growth.
How to prune apple trees - Regulated System
A logical stage forward from no pruning is method known as Regulated System. This can be followed with standard trees, half standards and strong-growing bush trees, i.e. those on vigorous root stocks. Briefly, with established trees this entails only removal of crowded or crossing branches, thinning out unwanted shoots, and taking out any dead wood. With this method on how to prune apple trees, sizeable branches have sometimes to be removed, and a pruning saw, with a curved blade is best used for this purpose. The cut surfaces of sawn off branches should be painted over with white lead paint to prevent entry of disease spores.
How to prune apple trees - Spur Pruning
For established bush trees on less-vigorous root stocks, harder method of pruning, called Spur Pruning, is sometimes followed. This, however, is best modified to give a method called Established Spur System. This is designed to encourage a system of fruiting spurs, close to main branch-work, and is useful for weaker growing varieties in particular. New lateral growth from branch frame work is pruned back to two or three buds from branch. New growth will arise from these buds, which will in turn be pruned similarly following year.