To prune apple trees in spring

to prune apple trees in spring Blog

One of the main rules is to prune apple trees in spring, taking into account their age and peculiarities. Proper pruning not only gives the tree a neat appearance, but also affects the yield, taste characteristics of fruits, the terms of their ripening. It is necessary to carry out this process before the time when the first buds blossom on the tree. Such an important agrotechnical event, such as crown formation, is best performed with the arrival of spring – this applies to all fruit-trees. About the peculiarities of spring pruning of the apple tree will be described in this article.

The choice of cutting tools is not unimportant. For competent pruning of fruit trees in spring we may need the following tools – pruning shears, hacksaw, lopper or garden knife. They should be very sharp and without traces of rust. For older branches, you will need a saw, also well sharpened and, of course, clean (without dirt and rust).

Pruning trees in the spring, tools, photos:

Spring pruning of an apple tree in detail
What is proper crown formation? Old, sick, frosty branches are to be removed. Excess branches are cut out, which create denseness, interfering with the penetration of sunlight. Here it is important to “distribute” the tree’s consumption of moisture and other useful components, so that all the forces of the apple tree were directed exactly to the branches with fruits. Failure to comply with these conditions is fraught with a decrease in quality and quantity of apples, they become shallower in size, the ripening period is delayed. In addition, too long branches can break under the weight of the fruit, and it will not be easy to get to them.

Spring pruning of apple trees is also important for very young representatives, because strongly growing branches can shift the center of gravity of the tree, the trunk will begin to bend. Also, spring crown shaping helps to correct pruning mistakes made in the fall. Removing branches that grow inward as well as unhealthy branches strengthens the apple tree’s immunity, reducing the risk of pests and diseases. Young shoots, wolfs, and so-called “competitive” branches are also removed.

Pruning the apple tree – important points:

In any type of pruning, the trunk is never touched.
Young shoots should be shortened by a maximum of one-third of their length.
The central branch (growing from the center) should be higher than the side branches by about 30-40 cm, no more.
In order to achieve the right balance, all branches of the same level should be of the same length.
Formative pruning of an apple tree in the spring is made taking into account the location of the bud. The inner branches should be removed at the level of the outer bud location. If the central conductor needs to be thickened, the growth of the branches should be directed deeper into the crown. To do this, trim at the level of the bud which is facing inwards.
Make sure that the cut is clean and straight. There should be no “chewed” edges or bevels. For this you should use a sharply sharpened tool, this has already been mentioned above. Do not be lazy and treat its cutting parts with some disinfectant.
After pruning, no stump or bough should remain above the bud (above it), the cut should be made at a distance of about 3 mm above it.
All wounded places must necessarily be treated with garden varnish or oil paint (as a last resort). In spring, as we know, the sap movement intensifies, so all injuries must be “healed”.

To remove branches, the secateurs, loppers and saws mentioned above, I would still recommend that beginners gardeners resort to the help of a lopper. Firstly, the work of the saw involves the movement of the cutting blade back and forth, which can be dangerous if the process takes place at a height, and even standing on the ladder. Secondly, the sharp teeth on the blade can damage the branches growing nearby, so a sharp lopper will be more convenient, plus with its long handles you can reach the farthest branches. Plus, the lopper’s cutting elements give you a perfect cut.

Timing of apple tree pruning
Here you should be guided by the climatic characteristics of your region. No specialist will be able to tell you a specific date, so you will determine the timing of pruning yourself, with an eye to the weather conditions. The main thing is to carry out the procedure a month or three weeks before the sap starts to flow. Do not try to do everything quickly and before the specified time benchmark, because after winter the wood becomes especially fragile. Pruning an apple tree too early in the spring will only do it harm. Try to “catch” the right amount of time between the tree’s awakening from hibernation and the beginning of bud formation, because sometimes it goes very quickly.

The scheme of pruning the apple tree is also determined individually, taking into account the age and size of the tree, the amount of work to be done, the location of the apple tree on the plot (growing trees nearby). There are several typical pruning schemes, but there are no strict requirements and norms. They are only the basis of the concept of this process, and further the gardener decides everything independently and according to the situation. The most common forms of crowns, which are given by pruning, are: rounded, pyramidal, flat horizontal or flat vertical, bell-shaped, shaped.

Pruning an apple tree in the spring
Let’s take a look at how a young tree, an adult fruiting tree and an old tree are pruned in turn.

Pruning a young apple tree
The very first pruning in young representatives is done immediately after the seedling has been planted in the ground. This process is aimed at the proper distribution of vitality between the roots and the trunk with branches. The young tree should reliably root in its new place of residence. The central conductor should be shortened so that when cut, its length is approximately 80-85 cm. If the young tree has side branches, divide their length into three parts figuratively and then remove two parts (2/3 of the length). The next spring, the young apple tree is pruned again: 3 (or 5) of the most powerful branches growing from the trunk are left on the tree. In this case, the upper branches are slightly pruned, so that they are shorter than the lower ones. The central shoot should be about 25-30 cm higher than the upper branches, so it is cut to the required length.

If the central shoot splits in two at the end, you should pick out and leave the one which is longer and cut the other off completely.

Also subject to removal those branches that have grown at an acute angle (relative to the trunk) – they are useless, as anyway will not be able to cope with the weight of the fruits and will break at the most important moment. And, of course, all frozen, dry and sick shoots are also cut out, as well as young growth near the trunk.

Don’t forget about proper pruning (3-4mm above the buds)! Also if you notice bark darkening on some individual branches (usually on them and buds do not swell), do not hesitate to remove them.

Proper pruning of a young apple tree in spring is very important, especially in the first years of its life in a new place. Thanks to this operation, the “foundation” of the future tree is laid, its crown is formed. If during this period you set the development of the tree in the wrong direction, then later it will be extremely difficult to correct something.

Pruning a fruiting apple tree

In the third or fourth year after planting the seedling, apple trees form the crown, but now pruning should be carried out very carefully, since the tree is already bearing fruit. At this stage, the branches are trimmed very little, so that this traumatic procedure does not affect the fruiting. The correct pruning of an apple tree is when the shoots that grow inside the crown and overlap with the fruiting branches are removed. The unspoken rule of thumb is that it’s better to cut a couple of large, thickening branches than to remove a few small ones. Remember that the trunk must not bifurcate!

Too long upward-growing branches must also be shortened; you should know that a length of 3.5 m is considered the maximum permissible for almost all varieties of fruit trees. Also do not forget about thinning the crown, excessive shading is not good for us. To be more convenient to control the situation, first remove the thickest branches – so you will be more clear about the overall picture. The horizontal branches are better left and so are the strongest branches to which you will graft another variety (if you plan to do this in future, of course).

Pruning a fruiting apple tree, photo:

How to prune an old apple tree correctly or rejuvenate a very old apple tree
Although very old apple trees are rarely pruned, the thickening of the tree canopy also needs to be controlled. Formative pruning in old trees is done every two years, removing branches and shoots that hide the sunlight from the fruit-bearing branches. Withered and broken fragments, understandably, are also to be pruned. If your apple tree for many years delighted you with a generous harvest, but in recent years its volume has become shallow, then you need to conduct a revision and remove unpromising branches. Rejuvenating pruning the old apple tree – this is the name of the process.

A radical pruning of a third of the shoots and branches of the total number of all branches is carried out. In this case, the main thing is not to get carried away and not to overdo it, it is one third of the branches from the total mass to be removed. You need to be prepared for the fact that from this tree you will not have to count on an abundant harvest in the current year. Similar pruning of the apple tree is carried out during the next 2 years, every spring – this method will start the renewal processes of the vital resources of the tree, it will better fruit and please you, as before.

Old apple tree, pruning, photo:

Pruning a column-shaped apple tree
In this case, there is a task – with its outlines, the crown of the tree should resemble a column, so the attention of the gardener should be directed to the removal of side branches. In addition, as a matter of course, all unnecessary, thickening crown shoots should be cut out. When pruning colonnade apple trees, the trunk is not touched under any circumstances. If suddenly it happened that the apple tree stopped growing, the trunk is only slightly shortened. In trees of this type, the apical bud should be intact. At first, when the colony-shaped apple tree is still very young, the central shoot is strengthened with the help of supports. This is done so that it does not break from gusts of wind or other circumstances.

With the advent of spring, while the buds have not yet begun to swell, the side branches of the apple tree are pruned by two buds – from them will grow powerful shoots. Next year, in spring, the vertically growing branches are again shortened by two buds (to activate the growth of new shoots), but the horizontal branches are not touched, as they will give fruit. It is only the following year, during spring pruning, that these horizontal fruiting branches are cut back into a ring. Note – “ring pruning” implies an even clean cut without disturbing the integrity of the surrounding bark, no stumps or knots are left during the pruning itself. Subsequent caulking of the wound site with horticultural varnish is mandatory.

At a time when all nature awakens from its winter sleep, fruit trees endure such “operations” best. Pruning apple trees in spring is an important part of care, aimed at renewing the vitality and appearance of the tree, increasing the volume of the future harvest.

Add a comment