Pruning an apple tree

Credit: OliBac

Q: When is the best time to prune the new growth on apple trees?

According to apple expert Derry Walsh (see our feature on her apple farm in our Fall 2009 issue of GardenWise Magazine):

“Trees should not be pruned before they have “filled their space”.

When they reach this level of maturity they can be pruned either in winter when they are dormant, or in summer (late July, August). Dormant-pruning invigorates a tree, summer-pruning devigorates it. In either case, branches should be reduced by approximately one-third.

Prune apple trees in late July, rather than the old method of winter pruning. This practice, although developed over a century ago in France by Louis Lorette, was not given much credence for many years. However, proponents hold that summer-pruning increases light on the fruit, which leads to better size and colour, increases the likelihood of new fruit buds on pruned branches and reduces the number of unproductive shoots (“water shoots”). And it is also a more pleasant time to be out in the garden.

Select branches (risers) in the middle of the tree (because the upper part of the tree gets good light as it is), choosing ones that are of pencil-thickness, more than 30 cm (12 in.) long, and woody for one-third of their length. Cut all of these risers back to 5 cm (2 in.) from the main branch.”