Time of Season to Prune Apple Trees

Apple trees (Malus Domestica) produce fruit on branches that are at least a year old, so when pruning apples we do need to remember that we may be cutting back this years crop.

There are actually two distinct methods of pruning an apple tree, each with their own timescale.

The spur-pruning method for apple trees

In spring or summer, cut longer new shoots back to three or four buds. The following summer, cut the same spur back to just two buds. This will cause a short spur to develop with lots of fruit. In winter, a further cutting back may be necessary for a well developed tree.

The renewal pruning method for apple trees

This is my preferred method for established trees. In late winter, cut back side shoots to leave between 7 and 10 buds. This spur will fruit the following year, but should then be cut back very hard the following winter, leaving one bud from which to grow a new side shoot and start the process all over again. If you find long springy vertical shoots have grown from a main branch, cut them right back to the main branch to remove them entirely. However, you can use these 'water shoots' to create new main branches. Tie them down in an arch so they are pointing down rather than up.

pruning water shoots

Then in future years these can become new main branches and the little fruiting spurs will generate new fruits in the third year.

If the tree is too tall, be quite ruthless about sawing off old branches. If fruits grow where they cannot be picked, they are just a waste. The other reasons for removing branches is if they are dead wood, are rubbing against their neighbours or showing signs of disease.

Be hard on your mature apple trees, pruning them back strongly, but never remove more than a quarter of the total tree, or else it might go into shock and not put out any apples at all for a couple of seasons.

By pruning apple trees in these ways you will develop strong trees with high yields of fruit.

Now find out about the many wonderful apple varieties available