Pruning unmaintained apple tree?

dougan778March 24, 2013

I have two apple trees in my yard. One is young and small, but the other is mature. I'm no expert, but it looks as though it hasn't been pruned in awhile. It seems like all of the apples are growing on the south side of the tree, which makes me think there's not enough light penetrating the tree.

Would you recommend pruning the south side of the tree to help with penetration? How serious of a pruning job should I do? Should I only go for the new growth/small branches or is it OK if I cut through some of the bigger branches? I don't want to do too much and damage the tree or reduce the fruit.

Sap isn't flowing yet. Picture is from the southwest.

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alan haigh

If there is a commercial orchard nearby take a look at how open the trees are- you will see that there are not more than 4 major branches coming off any 4' of trunk and an open center tree needs no more than 4 main branches altogether (I generally prefer only 3).

What you need is a lot of thinning cuts of entire branches right to the trunk to begin with until the tree is reasonably open- a point that is difficult to explain, but the old timers used to say you haven't pruned an apple tree enough until you can throw a cat through it.

Don't get to this point only by removing branches where they are attached to the trunk but also remove secondary and tertiary branches that crowd each other. How much and which smaller wood you leave on your main wood should be determined by each scaffold having about equal access to light and equal territory without any overlapping wood from competing scaffolds.

The greater the diameter of the scaffold or secondary branch the more secondary and/or tertiary wood should be left connected to it.

You won't kill this tree by removing too much wood.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 2:06PM
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