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Get More Fruit From Your Apple Trees With These Pruning Tips
Whether you're planting a young apple tree or encouraging an older tree to produce more fruit, pruning your tree at every stage of its life is essential, and timing is key.
A tree’s wounds heal slower in winter, so to avoid the cuts getting infected with diseases, the best time to prune is early spring, two weeks after the last frost.
Train young trees to grow into a shape that allows air circulation and balanced sun exposure. At a year old, cut the short bottom branches, letting the widest ones form the frame.
As the tree matures, the University of Maryland Extension recommends cutting half the length of the remaining branches and about 12 to 15 inches from the top of the central leader.
When your tree is two to three years old, create scaffold branches. Use hard pruners to cut them at a wide angle to prevent them from splitting and allow them to heal better.
You should prune annually once your tree is fully mature. Remove dead, damaged, and diseased limbs by cutting back to the healthiest buds that point away from the central leader.
Thin out crowded areas by cutting branches that are growing inward toward the central leader and rubbing against each other. As you trim, always maintain a pyramidal shape.
Pruning takes time, but will lead to more fruit every year. Once you finish the maintenance, cut back ⅓ of the second-tier scaffolds to get them thick and robust for new apples.