Although it’s late in the 2014 season already, today I wanted to give you 6 big helps for pruning an apple tree (or any fruit tree for that matter). If you haven’t ever done it before, this is something that can seem a little overwhelming, but it’s really easy to get going. So even if you have never done this before, fear not!
The overarching principle to keep in mind when you are pruning your fruit trees is: Prune for long term shape, health, and structure of your tree, NOT for the fruit you may get this season. Why? Because a tree that is healthy and shaped correctly, will end up being stronger, producing bigger and better fruit, have less diseases, and be less maintenance later in it’s life.
Pruning An Apple Tree
So without further adieu, here are 6 tips to get you well on your way:
- Remove dead limbs and branches. These are the easiest decisions to make, because dead sections of the tree are giving you absolutely no value. Getting rid of these sections keeps them from blocking precious sunlight and air flow to the living parts of the tree.
- Remove downward growing branches. Branches growing down will never have the strength to be great for your tree’s structure (an many times not strong enough for fruitwood either). Eliminating these branches keeps your tree from having to expend energy in something that isn’t going to have a good long term ROI.
- Get rid of water spouts. Water spouts are tiny little branches that are shooting straight vertically out of an established limb. They will typically be 1st year growths popping out of a 6-8 inch thick established limb. These new branches suck significant energy, and do no good.
- Eliminate criss-crossing branches. Criss-crossing branches cause weakening, stunted growth, and encourage disease. If a tree branch gets broken or has the bark rubbed off an area, the open sites are more vulnerable to disease. Overlapping branches also compete for sunlight and impede proper air flow. When you are deciding which branch stays and which one goes, determine which branch has strayed further from the overall direction of the major limb it’s being cut off. You want the “major limbs” of a tree to determine the direction of the growth up top.
- Make your cuts just above the last branch you want to keep. When you have identified a branch that needs pruning, trace it back to the last part of it’s growth that you want to keep. Make a clean cut just above the branch you want to keep, and your tree will be able to focus solely on the remainder of the branch you have left.
- BE SAFE! For as simple of an activity as something like tree pruning should be, there are still a lot of opportunities to fall, poke an eye out or chop off a finger. Don’t chance it–use precaution, gloves, eyewear, and a solid ladder!
Whether it be a commercial farm or a tiny lot in the suburbs, learning to maximize the earth you have around you is a big part of being a smart prepper.
Hope these tips help you in pruning your fruit trees!
See how the fruit harvest of both my apricots and apples ended up getting away from me this season.