Lately I’ve Been Thinking

Kelly, our guest blogger wrote this blog for any of you with apple trees.  We hope that you find it helpful.

“Pruning the IS one of the most necessary, neglected, misunderstood, forgiving and rewarding aspects of fruit tree care.” Ann Ralph

The apple trees that we care for on our orchard are mostly on semi dwarf or dwarf root stock. This absolutely does not mean that the trees we grow will stay small in size, in fact dwarfing root stock simply means it will be smaller than a standard fruit tree which is to say less than 30 feet tall. But with pruning we can keep the trees at a more reasonable height, less than 8 feet tall. That said, fruit trees sold as semi dwarf require pruning for size control. Pruning is important to get airflow and sunlight to the center of the tree. This will help the tree to fruit throughout and not just at the end of the limbs. Fruiting at the ends of the limbs will cause the branch to break.

Pruning basics – Be sure to cut close to the tree trunk, outside the branch collar, otherwise this leaves the tree susceptible to disease. First, start with the three D’s, which is to say, cut out any dead, diseased, and the disoriented branches. Starting here hopefully gets you cutting whether, its good, bad or ugly you took your first pruning leap! Second, cut out any branches that are rubbing against each other or have come too close to the ground (typically its best to have about 18 inches from the ground to the bottom branches). Third, cut out some of the last year’s branch growth to evenly space all branches. These cuts would include anything growing straight up and down, anything growing back toward the tree and anything that you think looks out of place.

Winter Pruning – Begins when apple trees are in their dormant state. This can start as early as December although ideal time would be February or March. This type of pruning is for vigor and aesthetic; winter pruning is also the perfect time to train younger trees – which is to say gently pull, weight or spread a branch in the direction you prefer. If the temperatures are too cold – lets say below 10 degrees – do not prune, this can kill the tree, just wait a week this is Michigan.

Summer Pruning – Done around the summer solstice, helps to keep trees small. This is a good time to prune those straight up and downs.

The first cut you make will be scary but in time it will become comfortable and easy. If you don’t know what to prune, make some cuts anyway. You are not wrong, you are learning. If you want good looking trees year after year, prune. To keep your fruit tree manageable, prune. To see better looking fruit, prune. To keep the size of the tree to reach more fruit, prune.




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