One of the biggest jobs an apple farmer has isn’t picking the fruit – its apple tree pruning!
Pruning starts in late winter and has to begin before you see any signs of new growth. Apple tree pruning is vital for healthy trees. It increases air circulation for the tree, meaning it’s less likely to be hit with pests – disease or insects. If an apple tree doesn’t get good air circulating, it’ll eventually stop fruiting so apple tree pruning is very important!
However, trying to figure out where to prune isn’t always easy.
Here’s what you need to know about apple tree pruning.
Late winter is the time most apple growers start the pruning process. The tree is still dormant and there isn’t new growth, so damaged limbs and branches are pruned. Twigs or crossed branches can also be thinned out making sure to remove branches that seem to “compete” with each other. Normally, new growth is trimmed back.
While the most important pruning activity takes place in late winter, apple growers also prune again, usually in the middle of summer. This is when the new shoots that grow up or down from branches and limbs need to be removed.
When apple farmers prune, the are careful to remove branches, twigs and limbs all the way to the base. You don’t want to leave stubs. Generally, you’ll need to find the branches that are the “leaders” meaning they split from the trunk and grow up. You shouldn’t have more than four or five “leaders,” or your tree won’t get airflow.
Then, the pruning should balance the horizontal branches – this is key because these will eventually be heavy with ripe fruit.
Dead, damaged and diseased branches should always be cut, as should branches that grow in a strange pattern or if there is “doubling” or competing branches.
Most growers prune the largest branches first and then work their way to the smallest cuts (using a saw, to loppers to hand pruners when apple tree pruning).
Having sharp, carefully maintained tools is key, as you don’t want to tear through bark.
Older trees and younger trees need to be pruned as well. Proper pruning of young trees helps determine the size and shape of the mature tree – as well as crop yields.
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