If you grow these wonderful fruit trees, the best time to prune them is now – in winter – or in very early spring before any new growth begins. Pruning not only helps to develop proper shape and form, but also encourages new growth, promotes high fruit yield, and maintains good tree health. At my Bedford, New York farm, I have many, many apple trees that are pruned every year. Pasang Sherpa from my outdoor grounds crew tackled one of the ancient apple trees yesterday.
Enjoy these photos.
My fruit trees are always very productive. These were some of the gorgeous apples from last fall.
The fruit trees are extremely healthy, in part because of all the care and maintenance that is done to keep them doing well.
Here is the dwarf apple espalier in fall apple picking season – hundreds and hundreds of juicy, delicious fruits. I planted this espalier when I moved here. It is located just behind my long carport not far from my Winter House.
A good number of my apple trees are at least 50-years old, so they were already here when I purchased the property. Here’s one of the ancient trees, with lots of apples ready to pick. To maintain productive fruit trees, they need regular pruning once a year.
And now is the time to prune them. The tree takes up a dormant state after shedding its leaves and before sprouting new buds.
Mature apple trees have a semi-broad trunk with wide, spreading branches. Dwarf apple trees range from 10-feet tall and up, while standard trees can grow more than 20-feet.
The bark of an apple tree is generally gray, scaly, and rough to the touch.
This old tree, with its long branches is supported with natural wood crutches.
Here’s Pasang pruning. He is our resident tree expert and oversees all the smaller tree jobs at the farm. Pruning is best completed before growth starts as cuts will heal quickly. There are two main goals of pruning trees. On young trees, pruning encourages a strong, solid framework. And on mature trees like this, they usually already have their shape determined, so it’s important to maintain their shape and size. Traditionally, apple trees were always encouraged to stay shorter, so apples were easier to reach.
I prefer much of the work be done by hand. Pasang uses this STIHL hand pruning saw. Cutting by hand gives my trees a more natural appearance and shape. Smaller twigs are snipped off with regular secateurs. Each member of my outdoor grounds crew has a pair.
Pasang removes the water sprouts. Water sprouts are thin branches which normally grow straight up from lateral branches and do not bear fruit.
Dead branches, or those without any signs of new growth, are also cut, so the energy is directed to the branches with fruiting buds. Here is an example of a dead branch – the wood is dark and brown.
Pruning cuts should be made fairly flush to the branch from which it grew. The idea is to leave slight stubs. By removing any more, the remaining branch has too much of an opening for disease to enter. Here, one can see where a cut was made.
Here are some of the apple tree buds. Tree fruit have two types of buds, terminal and lateral buds. Apples flower and fruit on terminal buds. A terminal, or apical bud, is located at the tip of a shoot. A lateral bud develops along the developing shoot at the base of the leaf blade.
Pasang cuts branches that are rubbing or crisscrossing each other, preventing any healthy new growth. Basically, the goal is to create a tree with well spaced lateral branches. Any branches which interfere with the tree’s shape or create a dense framework should be removed.
Here, he removes crowded branches to help let in light and promote good air circulation.
Once a section is pruned, Pasang pauses and takes a look to make sure nothing was missed. The end goal is to encourage good fruit production.
Pruning stimulates the tree to grow more fruiting spurs by eliminating competing suckers and unproductive wood.
After the branches are cut, they are gathered, neatly piled, and then either saved for kindling or processed through a wood chipper to make mulch.
Here, one can see that the tree on the right has been pruned while the one on the left has not.
By late afternoon, this apple tree looks great after pruning. I am looking forward to many lustrous green trees heavy with fruits come autumn. Another tree done, with many more to go – keep up the good pruning, Pasang!