Monday, May 16, 2011

Pruning Apple trees for more fruit

Apples flower and fruit on spurs. Spurs are short multi branching stems along the main branches and pruning should  be undertaken to develop, enhance or replace these spurs.

There are two main structures of apple trees. Vase shaped where upright branches are trained in a V formation  and spurs are developed along these upright branches. Espalier and centre leader trees both have a vertical trunk and the side branches are trained and tied down to grow horizontally to produce fruiting spurs. 

Also the lower in the tree spurs are produced the easier it is to tend the fruit and to pick it

Knowing the style of tree being pruned is important to enable fruiting spurs to be encouraged where required and to remove unwanted branches.

In all pruning start by examining the structure of the tree and identify any new branches that should be kept to improve the style and structure of the tree. Tie these into place.

Once the structure is sorted then the removal of unwanted branches can begin. Shorten them back to at least one third of their length.

When pruning branchlets on a fruiting spur cut back to about one third so that the spur will continue to develop. On older spurs look at the possibility of removing some very old wood which can be replaced by new young growth.

Remove all the unwanted material from the tree. If this material is diseased burn it or send it away in the green recycling bin.

Gardeners should be able to recognized the difference between flowering buds on an apple tree and non flowering buds. Flowering buds are fatter and rounder and are usually at the end of a short spur. Keep as many of the flowering buds as possible.

Always use sharp secateurs and for larger branches a sharp saw.

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