Pruning Apple Trees

Now that the final harvest is approaching and these trees start to lose their leaves, this is an ideal time for the annual maintenance or rejuvenation pruning.

Cutting back the main branches encourages growth in apple trees and pear trees. This is done by removing approximately one third of the branches and cutting the long side branches back to two or three buds. The fruiting wood grows from these side branches. Fruiting branches shorter than 25 centimetres have developed during the past summer. It is better not to prune these branches, although longer branches can be cut back to prevent crowding. The main shoots from the branches can be topped, removing the uppermost growth tip and three to four buds. This stimulates the development of new side shoots.

Over the years it is best to keep five main branches, or leaders, that stem from the trunk at different heights and grow in different directions. If necessary, these branches can be bent downwards and fastened with string or tape. After a year the string or tape can be removed.

Old branches that cross or touch one another should be removed. This prevents damage and keeps the heart of the tree open, improving air circulation and reducing the risk of disease. This also allows more light to get to the crown.

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