Pruning fruit trees: how to properly prune an apple tree

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Pruning a fruit tree is the most effective way to increase fruit production. Compliance with the basic rules for pruning apple trees allows you to achieve a harvest even from a young tree. Giving an apple one shape or another, you can not only get a high yield of apples, but also aesthetic enjoyment of the beauty of a healthy tree.

Pruning fruit trees: how to prune an apple tree

Types of branches and buds

A branch that is an extension of the trunk is called a leader or center conductor. Branches of the first order grow from the trunk, extending from them are branches of the second order. Growth is the branches that have grown in one season. The side shoot, located next to the growth of the leader, is called a competitor. The branches that give the crop are called overgrown.

The buds that form future flowers are called flower buds. Growth buds give development to shoots.

Pruning fruit trees: how to prune an apple tree Flower and growth buds


For work on pruning apple trees, you must have a pruner. In order to cut hard-to-reach and thicker branches, you need to purchase a pruner with long handles. When working with a pruner, the branch is placed closer to the base of the cutting inserts. Sometimes it is more convenient to use a garden knife with a curved blade. Garden double-edged saws produce a smoother cut on one side than on the other. These saws can damage adjacent branches, so work with them requires care. Saws with a curved blade and teeth on one side only are used in more confined pruning conditions for small branches.

Pruning fruit trees: how to prune an apple tree

It is important to keep the tool straight when trimming, otherwise the cut will be ragged. For convenience, it is necessary to use a tool corresponding to the thickness of the branches, which is cleaned and lubricated at the end of the work..

Pruning fruit trees: how to prune an apple tree

Formation of a young seedling

Apple tree shapes

In small garden plots, they try to grow apple trees on a medium and low stem (part of the trunk from the beginning of the growth of skeletal branches to the root collar). At the same time, the tree is given various shapes by pruning. The choice of the structure of the crown of a tree is often determined not only by aesthetics, but also by the opportunity to get a good harvest in a small area..

1. Cordon. This crown shape allows trees to be planted more densely, and also greatly facilitates the work of caring for the apple tree. Branches are most often placed at an angle of 45 °.

Pruning fruit trees: how to prune an apple tree

2. Palmette. This shape makes it possible to arrange branches in the same plane. Its skeleton is the central trunk and branches of the first order. The distance between them is 40 cm. To form an apple tree using the palmette method, support is required. An apple tree formed on a trellis can serve as a natural fence.

Pruning fruit trees: how to prune an apple tree

3. Bowl. With this method of forming the crown, the tree branches receive evenly sunlight. Harvesting with this form is greatly simplified..

Pruning fruit trees: how to prune an apple tree

The creativity of gardeners knows no boundaries, and today you can find all the new forms of the crown of apple trees.

Pruning fruit trees: how to prune an apple tree

Formation of an apple tree “Dwarf pyramid”

This type of crown formation is quite widespread in horticulture. It allows you to get a large harvest of apples with easy care. The tree is formed in relation to the central conductor (approx. 2 m high) and the side branches. The crown tapers gradually towards the top of the tree.

Pruning fruit trees: how to prune an apple tree

Correct pruning of the branches helps the cut heal quickly. Therefore, when cutting branches, you must follow the basic rules:

  1. The selection of the tool is made taking into account the thickness and age of the branch.
  2. A quality garden varnish for a wounded tree is a medicine that will protect against infection with diseases.
  3. It is very important to cut the branch correctly. The figure shows the main errors of sections per kidney.

Pruning fruit trees: how to prune an apple tree 1 – too long, causes dieback; 2 – too close, interferes with kidney growth; 3 – too oblique cut, causes tissue injury; 4 – right, promotes healthy growth

  1. If the entire branch is removed, the cut is made in accordance with the photo below. Slices 1 and 2 are incorrect, will heal slowly, and the branch may dry out altogether.

Pruning fruit trees: how to prune an apple tree

  1. If an unnecessary branch is removed with a saw, then, in order to avoid breaking off, a small notch is made from the bottom first, and then a complete sawing is performed from above..
  2. If after sawing off the cut is not smooth, clean it with a knife.
  3. After the end of the work, the cut must be processed with garden varnish, spreading with a thin layer. The thick layer can dry out and fall off, exposing the cut.

Pruning fruit trees: how to prune an apple tree

In order to stimulate the formation of the upper branches, the seedling is pruned in the first year. Leave about 50 cm.Cut the branch to the bud in the opposite direction from the graft.

Pruning fruit trees: how to prune an apple tree

The following spring, the central conductor, as well as the lateral branches, are shortened to 20 cm from the beginning of the one-year-old growth. The cut is made on the kidney. In summer, lateral shoots that interfere with the main skeleton are shortened to 7–10 cm. Second order growth is left one leaf long.

Pruning fruit trees: how to prune an apple tree

The third year repeats the pruning of the previous one. The growth of the central conductor is shortened to 20 cm in length, which significantly stimulates the regrowth of lateral shoots. The cut is made on the kidney in the opposite direction to last year.

Pruning fruit trees: how to prune an apple tree

In May, all the growth of the central conductor is removed. During the summer, lateral growths, which have reached a length of 45–50 cm, are made shorter, leaving 3 leaves. Shoots of branches of the second order are shortened by one sheet from above.

Strongly growing branches are removed completely. You can maintain horizontal fruiting branches by cutting downward growth. To maintain the shape of the pyramid, the upper branches are also cut.

Pruning a mature tree follows the same rules. In the spring, all the growth of the last year of the central conductor is removed. To prevent thickening, it is necessary to thin out the overgrowing twigs. All vertically growing branches that break the pyramidal shape are also removed..

Pruning fruit trees: how to prune an apple tree

Pruning to increase fruiting

Four-year-old apple trees begin to bear fruit actively, so their growth slows down. At this time, the formation of a strong skeleton becomes relevant. This will enable the tree to withstand the increasing stress from the fruit. Only after that you can proceed to detailed pruning of overgrown branches..

If you cut off the growth of one year in spring, leaving 4 buds, then in the summer shoots (1-2) from the upper buds will appear on the branch. In the second year in the spring, two buds must be left on this branch, which have not formed an increase. The abandoned growth buds are reborn into flower buds and will give a crop in the third year. Further, overgrowing branches are formed on this branch. If further thickening of the overgrown branches occurs, they are thinned out.

Pruning fruit trees: how to prune an apple tree

Pruning wood for rejuvenation

Over time, the apple tree may stop bearing fruit. One of the reasons for this may be the very dense crown of the tree. Thinning revives the fruiting of the apple tree. Remove any criss-crossing, weak, broken branches. Pruning is done gradually over several years. Then weakening of the tree can be avoided. Branches not affected by pruning will give a crop soon (2-3 years).

Pruning in early spring significantly speeds up growth, while pruning in summer slows it down. Therefore, in the summer, pruning of unnecessary side branches is done..

Pruning fruit trees: how to prune an apple tree

Fruits most often grow on horizontal branches. To increase fruiting, strong vertical branches are tied into arcs, orienting them horizontally. They will begin to bear fruit soon.

Pruning fruit trees: how to prune an apple tree

If the area around the tree is overgrown with weeds, and it does not receive sufficient nutrition, this can also lead to an end to fruiting. In this case, a support is installed, weeds are removed, and then all growths of one year are shortened. To make the tree healthier, all ovaries are removed within 2 years..

Pruning fruit trees: how to prune an apple tree

Seasonal apple pruning

Pruning the apple tree in early spring significantly stimulates the tree’s growth. It is done before the kidneys begin to develop. Summer pruning, on the other hand, will slow down growth and is suitable for removing unnecessary fast-growing, damaged and dried branches. Autumn pruning is, like summer, sanitary. It is carried out after the foliage has fallen off and before frost appears. In this case, the apple tree has time to heal wounds and prepare for winter..

Pruning fruit trees: how to prune an apple tree

A careful attitude to the tree, timely simple work on caring for it will surely reward the gardener with a healthy and abundant harvest of these amazingly healthy and tasty fruits..

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Comments: 2
  1. Juniper

    Can you provide step-by-step instructions or tips on how to correctly prune an apple tree? I’m interested in learning the proper techniques to ensure my tree’s health and maximize fruit production. Any specific tools or timing recommendations would also be appreciated. Thank you!

  2. Waverly

    Could you provide step-by-step instructions or tips on properly pruning an apple tree? I have a fruit tree in my garden and would like to ensure I am doing it correctly for optimal fruit production. Thank you in advance for your help!

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