Last year I was set the assignment of writing an assignment on pruning apple trees. I wrote it and handed it in and since then I have been waiting for winter to prune my own apple tree at home. Pruning apple trees is not something I've had any experience in so I'm hoping that the tree will respond in a positive way. Other tasks I have left to complete are feeding the tree (which I will do once it breaks out of dormancy) and netting it to keep the birds away from the fruit. If I can manage to complete those last two tasks I should have lots of apples come summer. Listed below are pruning instructions from my pruning assignment and also some before and after pictures of my tree.
SPUR PRUNING INSTRUCTIONS
The main pruning is done during winter when the tree is dormant. Tasks for winter pruning include;
- Removing branches that do not conform to the shape of the tree (ill directed branches pointing inwards rather that outwards are an example)
- Removing week spindly branches to allow more energy to be concentrated on the strong branches
- Removing dead or diseased wood which may promote or harbour certain pests or diseases
- Thinning crowded growth to improve ventilation and light penetration through to lower branches.
- Shortening back last seasons growth by two thirds to encourage spurs to form and to keep these close to the main branch.
Summer pruning can also be performed which involves
- Picking out water shoots to allow energy to be directed to more established fruiting spurs
- Pinching the growth tips of over vigorous lateral branches to concentrate the trees energy to the fruiting spurs
Spur pruning a lateral branch;
This is done on an established tree where formative pruning is already complete. The purpose of spur pruning is to enhance the fruit production yield rate by concentrating the trees energy on its fruiting buds rather than letting it grow longer branches. Done correctly it should increase the amount of fruit and the size of the fruit.
The way to do this pruning is to shorten the lateral shoots to three or four buds for shoot. Also the main leader of the branch should be shortened to half of the growth produced during the previous year. As always try to prune to an outwards facing bud to maintain an attractive and functional shape. Below is a drawing showing how you would prune a spur-bearing fruit tree branch.
Below is my illustration of spur pruning
The apple tree prior and post pruning. Notice all those upright twigs at the top of the tree. I think they are what they call water shoots.