How to Prune an Apple Tree: [Complete Guide]

The Apple treeIt is a tree belonging to the Rosaceae family and its scientific name is domestic malus.

It is a very popular tree in Europe, especially in Spain, because its fruit, the apple, has been part of the Spanish diet for centuries.

In Europe this fruit was introduced by the Romans, but the Spanish brought it to America in the 18th century.

Because it has great vitamin and healing properties, the apple is highly desired throughout the world, and today there are more than a thousand variants of the tree, thanks to hybridizations between wild forms.

To learn more, you may also be interested in: How to fertilize an apple tree?

Why prune an apple tree?

The Apple treeIt can reach a height of twelve meters,and in its growth lateral or secondary horizontal branches come out, or at a small ascending angle.

Therefore, the tree must be pruned, toremove those side branchesand the stems that have taken a pronounced upward angle, greater than 60 degrees.

Likewise, the tertiary branches that are born from the buds of the secondary branches must be eliminated.

The idea is to prevent the branches from taking a very pronounced direction that could lead them to intersect with the other branches.

The apple tree has a rounded crown and pruning is aimed at maintaining it, following a conical line to help it achieve its shape.

existthree ways of pruning:the planting phase, which must be carried out when the tree is 60 cm tall, the training phase and the maintenance phase, the latter after four years.

In summary, pruning seeks:

  • Keep your trees and shrubs in good health.
  • Improve the flowering and beauty of its foliage.
  • Master its shape and volume.

What is the best date to prune an apple tree?

The Apple treemust be pruned at least once a year,although there are those who do it two and even three times.

The main pruning should be done in winter,but it is also recommended in summer to correct anomalies in the formation of the tree.

Winter pruning is done because the tree has lost its leaves in the fall and is in the stage known as vegetative shutdown.

At that time, as the branches of the apple tree are dry, broken and poorly placed, it is easier to prune it to form the tree and achieve a balance between its development and fruiting.

Winter pruning also has the objective of rejuvenating the tree whose crowns are very old and with little vigor.

This pruning must be doneduring the months of December, January or February.(June, July and August in the southern hemisphere).

Summer pruning or green pruning should be done at the end of May and beginning of June (February or March in the Southern Hemisphere) with the intention of cutting vigorous lateral shoots and those that come out of the trunk below the main branches, to balance the tree growth and improve lighting and aeration of the fruits.

What important points should you keep in mind when pruning apple trees?

When pruning apple trees –and other trees– a series of points must be taken into account, among which the following stand out:

  • Prune as little as possible. Branches are pruned faster than they are replaced; therefore, it is preferable not to prune than to do it indiscriminately.
  • Have good sense and some experience.
  • Suppress branches that are damaged, broken or whose bark is deteriorated behind a healthy part.
  • Clear the center to let in air and light.
  • Encourage the production of new branches and suppress the oldest ones.
  • Try to preserve the natural shape of the bush.
  • Start pruning by removing old branches; then the branches that intersect with others.
  • The cut should be 5 cm above a bud.
  • Make clean cuts, avoid tearing.
  • To cut a fat branch, avoid splitting the wood.
  • Don’t wait too long to cut off annoying branches.
  • Protect yourself from wounds and scars by wearing gloves.

How should we prune it? (Step by Step)

To prune an apple tree, you need:

  • Pruning shears.
  • Pruning saw or folding saw.
  • Telescopic pruner for the highest branches.
  • Gardening gloves.

The steps to follow inapple tree pruning are as follows:

  1. Know when to prune. Noticing that the apple tree needs to be pruned, you may be tempted to do so; however, it is necessary to know that pruning must be done at the right time, as we have explained.
  2. Decide when to prune. Autumn should be avoided because new growth stimulated by pruning will die in the winter cold.
  3. Get the proper tools to avoid damaging the tree; for example, the scissors must be proportional to the branches. Branches greater than 2.5 cm or one inch should be cut with a pruner; those of 7 cms, with a folding saw.
  4. Take into account the trees to be pruned. If the apple tree is large, it is a candidate for pruning, but it is good to wait three years for the first pruning.
  5. If you need to prune a large part of the tree, it is better to do it step by step over several seasons.
  6. Pruning young trees allows them to be shaped into strong trunks.
  7. Pruning mature or large trees allows healthy and larger fruit to be obtained.
  8. You have to give it the right shape. The apple tree should have an iconic shape, with more volume at the base than at the top, which will allow sunlight to reach a larger number of branches; Before starting, remember to give the branches a pyramidal shape.
  9. Choose branches that serve as scaffolding, branches that do not intersect; a maximum of six main scaffold branches.
  10. Removing suckers is another step; they are shoots that grow near the base of the trunk.
  11. All dead, diseased, or damaged wood that is brittle or discolored must be removed.
  12. Remove intersecting branches to allow wind to pass through the plant without contracting airborne diseases.
  13. Cut the branches that grow downwards because that prevents the growth of large and healthy fruit.

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