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Apple trees are a wonderful addition to any garden. And even though most hardy fruit trees don’t need help to grow high-quality produce, pruning your apple tree will enhance those results significantly.
Whether want to learn the basics of how to prune an apple tree specifically in Australia or anywhere else in the world – this article has got you covered.
To prune an apple tree, you don’t need a lot of equipment:
And here are the steps to safely pruning your apple tree:
Our advice is to divide the work into different stages over several winters to space out the regrowth. This can be a long and tedious process, so it would be easier if you distribute the work in manageable periods. Even if it takes more than one go, don’t worry. Just continue working.
You might think that healthy regrowth is what you’re looking for with an older or overgrown tree. But if you cut back too much at once, you’ll encourage the tree to grow upwards which will result in producing less fruit, if any.
Unlike an older tree, a young apple tree will be the happiest when it’s cut back quite heavily – a process sometimes called “heading” or “heading back”. This usually involves pruning back around 25-30% of last year’s growth from your tree, as well as the same percentage height from the trunk or main stem of your young tree.
These calculations can sometimes be quite tricky for someone new to pruning trees. To avoid mistakes, it’s better to be slow and extra careful in your work. Take a step back from time to time to assess your work and make sure everything is even. If, by any chance, you feel unsure how to proceed at a certain stage of the pruning, advice or visit from an experienced gardener can guide you in the right direction.
Timing plays an important role for a successful tree pruning process, so keep reading for more on information on that matter.
If you’re trying to decide how and when to prune an apple tree in Australia specifically, winter is almost certainly going to be your best bet. It’s a good idea in many other parts of the world too – especially if you’re trying to encourage your tree to grow in a more suitable, healthier shape.
But how do you prune an apple tree in winter? Isn’t it wrong to prune the tree while it’s dormant?
It’s quite the opposite! Much as it might seem logical to cut into the tree when it’s looking its greenest, pruning in winter is much better if you want to make it grow back healthy and in good shape for harvesting. Wait until the real colder weather has set in and your tree looks properly dormant before getting started on winter pruning.
If you’re trying to work out how to prune an apple tree in spring, the general advice is not to.
If it’s very early spring and your tree hasn’t started turning green yet, it’s still effectively winter, and you can get away with it. If not, it’s best to wait until late summer at the very earliest. If you prune in late spring in particular, you risk the tree getting damaged by the heat of the summer sun.
The critical period for pruning apple trees in summer is after the fruit has been picked later in the season – or even what might be early autumn.
If you prune at the height of summer, you risk attenuating the shade which the leaves, fruit and branches of the tree provide for itself. Late summer pruning though, is ideal for many types of apple trees. For many types – especially if you’ve already done some winter trimming to establish a good shape and general health – figuring out when and how to prune an apple tree in summer is the best way to encourage it to produce more fruit.
If you’re trying to work out how to prune an apple tree in autumn, much like spring, the safe answer is to wait.
If you prune in autumn, all you will likely do is encourage your tree to start new growth that will be instantly vulnerable to the winter chill. Wait until after your tree has become dormant and consider some winter pruning instead.
If unsure, it is always better to leave the tree pruning to a specialist!
Fantastic Gardeners Melbourne are certified and experienced pros who can help!