Of all the gardening jobs that there are, it is probably the prospect of pruning an old overgrown Apple Tree that creates the most apprehension in the average person ……
…. and sometimes it can be quite a task !!
But before you even begin to prune something like this, it’s fair to say that you should know something about how an Apple tree grows, and why it is so necessary to prune them correctly.
Although this image is actually a Maple and not an Apple Tree, my point is this. However you prune any tree, Apple trees included, it will always try to have a leader. That is what being a tree is all about.
So the shape that we want for an Apple tree is like an ‘open hand’, and to do that we have to cut out the leader. In the image above, the branches have grown from the place where the leader was cut off. This is done to keep the tree at a manageable height, to let in more air and light, to create more opportunities to produce more flowering buds (fruiting spurs), and to create more of a ‘bush-like’ appearance so that fruit may be easily gathered.
However from the moment the leader is removed the tree will be trying to produce a dominant leading shoot. All of the long upright growths that you can see all over this tree are evidence of this effort by the tree to become upright again. When it’s time to prune this tree, all of these shoots will be shortened back to about 5 buds.
And this is partly why an un-pruned or improperly pruned Apple tree can get into such a mess.
Added to the need to keep the tree in its ‘open hand’ shape is also the need to be able to accurately identify the two different types of buds on an Apple tree.
The rounded ones are a flower bud, and the thinner ones on the upper thin shoot are growth buds ….. and I can’t stress enough the importance of being able to make that observation, because if you cut the wrong ones off, you get no apples !
…. and since this is what we would all like to end up with, NOT cutting off the flower buds helps more that I can say.
So in simple terms, this is the type of effect that we seek.