I seem to write about pruning a lot, or maybe it just feels that way, as the job of pruning seems to come around so quickly each year – or maybe it’s just time flying, as it does. Regardless, here I go again.
In general, late winter and early spring is a good time to prune quite aggressively while the tree is dormant, so it is less stressful for it. This will lead to more vigorous growth in spring, which leads to a healthier tree. Now all the leaves have gone, and you have free and easy access to the tree and branches, it’s a good time to get in and prune to help maintain the trees health, shape and the quality of fruit it bears.
After the trees summer growth, you can be more selective and prune to shape the tree and redirect its energy towards the fruit. Normally you should remove upward growth at the end of summer, but it is never too late, and although doing it now may encourage more vigorous growth, that can be addressed in summer.
One of your main considerations when pruning is to do it so that the short, compact branches that bear the fruit – fruiting spurs, are encouraged to grow strongly. It is on these spurs that the flowers, that will turn into fruit, grow. Unlike the rest of the shoots, the spurs will be shorter, chunkier and often have a cluster of buds on them, and as they will be productive for a few years, you want to keep them, and not see them go with the rest of the prune.
Once the tree starts to grow, you may notice vertical vigorous vegetive growth (that’s as hard to write as it is to say)! To try and form fruiting spurs (there is no guarantee, it’s not a perfect science), trim these back to about 3 buds from the base. Choose an outward facing bud and undercut the one above it square to the shoot.
If you have a young apple tree, pruning properly in the early years will set up a strong framework of branches that will become fruiting spurs. Select three of four well-spaced branches with wide angles from the trunk and remove any others that compete with them. Prune these branches as the tree grows to help keep its shape and encourage fruiting spurs.
I have watched plenty on videos on pruning trees, but this one from Vasili I think is very worthwhile looking at - How To Prune A Dwarf Apple Tree - YouTube
He certainly knows his stuff!