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Pruning Apple Trees

Pruning Apple Trees

Posted by Scott Sharkey on Jan 25th 2023

Winter certainly is not a time to be gardening here in the far north as we sip our morning coffee looking out at a 13 degree, cold blustery day, however, it is the time to start pruning apple trees. When winter is full on, that is the time that pruning should be done so that the tree is fully dormant. Many people purchase and plant apple trees and then wonder what the care is? The truth is that apple trees are a lot of work, but the reward of having fresh, juicy, homegrown apples far outweighs the effort.

Apple trees will need to be trimmed up every year, and as mentioned it needs to be done in the winter. Consider it a fun way to get out in the cold and get a little exercise and fresh air after being cooped up inside. One of the worst things you can do to an apple tree is to just let it go. They will produce better and with higher quality fruit if you take the effort and trim the branches up every year. It can be a little intimidating to just start hacking away at branches, but with a little know-how the task is quite easy. We have 800 apple trees in our orchard, and it takes only about one full day to get it done.

Once you trim up your apple trees you may feel like you really harmed them or that you over-trimmed. Probably, come summer you will second guess if you even touched them at all during the winter. They will grow and recover and now you will start to train the tree to grow the way that you want it.

Remember, not pruning an apple tree is much worse for the tree than over-pruning. Neglect will only bring poor apples and a small harvest, but with a little effort you can have a greater reward.

So here is a guideline of what needs to be done for pruning apple trees:

  • Each branch needs full sunlight - trim away branches that are impeding the sunlight.
  • Trim "suckers" which are the branches that grow either straight up or straight down. These will become non-productive branches that just consume energy from the tree. Cut them out.
  • A good branch should have a nice 45 degree angle of upward growth. Keep these branches and cut away other branches first.

Check out our How-To video here:


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