Its the right time of year to prune apple trees - but if you haven't done it before it is a daunting task. In our latest Blog, TeamGIB member Mike Beckwith offers a helping hand with what you will need and how to get started.
Winter, when the leaves are off the tree, is the correct time to prune apple trees that are grown as normal trees, (rather than when they are grown as cordon, espalier or fan trained trees, which will be Summer pruned).
The tools that would be ideal for this work are shown in the first picture. Left to right, secateurs, pruning saw, long handled pruner and bow saw.
Secateurs are used for small pruning cuts, which is the main bulk of the work. The pruning saw will take out larger branches and is shaped to make it easier to get between branches to make a cut. The long-handled pruner has larger blades and will cut larger branches than the secateurs, the longer handles making the cutting easier. Finally the bow saw can also be used for large branches but is not so easy to get between branches to make a cut as the pruning saw.
For the actual pruning work, (see picture 2 before pruning starts) Start by thinking of the 3 D's. Take out any dead, dying or diseased branches. Then thin the branches out by removing any that are crossing or growing in the wrong direction to leave the branchwork spaced and open.
From here you can start pruning back the branches you want to keep. Prune back the main shoot at the end of each branch by one third of its length. Prune to just above a bud that is facing in the direction you want the new shoot to grow (see picture 3).
Then any shoot below that on the same branch, cut back to about 3-4 buds to leave a spur which should be where the fruit will form later in the year. Picture 4 shows the branch after this has been done.
Continue this process until all the branches have been pruned. Picture 5 shows the section of the tree after it has been pruned. If you compare picture 2 with 5 you can see how the work has thinned and shaped the section of the tree.
Happy pruning! We look forward to your photos of a bumper apple crop later in the year!