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Winter Pruning Apple Trees – Part 1

Hi there welcome to Avery Gardens now I just want to quickly show you the best way to prune apple trees in the winter months. Now winter pruning for apple trees is from December into mid to late February which is where we are now so we’re at the back end of when is the best time to be doing apple tree pruning is at this time of year.

There are two ways to cut apple trees, you can prune them in the summer which I’ll show you in a separate video that’s a kind of a different technique or as I’ve said in the winter which is when we’re going to be doing this apple tree.

Why Winter Pruning?

Right now people get quite nervous about pruning apple trees as it can be seen to be quite dramatic and quite scary you think you might kill the tree, but these are really resilient trees they’re really happy to be pruned at this time of year and in fact they will thrive if you do it properly. The whole principle of pruning in the winter time is kind of two or three-fold really.

The main reason is the tree is dormant and so any kind of cuts you do now won’t harm the tree and also you get to see the structure of the tree so the leaves are off and so you can see all the limbs, you can see where the branches go and you can kind of see roughly what kind of shape you want your tree to be in.

Now this is quite an old apple tree this is probably 50 or 60 years old so you can see it’s all knobbly. It has been pruned in the past, but it needs to be thinned out a little bit. The whole principle really is to make sure that the tree is nice and open, they kind of say that you should be able to fly a pigeon in through.

Pruning Rules

So you can kind of Imagine just how much branches need to be removed from this tree it’s recommended that you don’t remove more than one third of the tree at any one time when you prune.

That kind of just maximises the health of the tree but because this tree is kind of in such need of rejuvenation that rule can kind of be bent around a little bit but if you do prune it really heavily you tend to get what we call water shoots.

Pruning Old Wood

I’ve got one here this is from last year so when you prune the old wood particularly at the top it will stimulate regrowth in the summer which is what these shoots are they’re unproductive, they take a lot of energy from the tree and will minimise the fruiting and flowering capacity of the tree.

Now you can deal with these in the summer which again I’ll show you in a separate video but you can break the cycle a lot of people just kind of top the tree so the tree will grow lots of these in the winter people will cut them back but then the cycle will continue.

What you need to do is get in into the tree and prune a lot of the old mangled growth out and then over the years you will be able to maximise your productivity of your tree.

Now they say you can fly a pigeon through the tree but I like to also think you don’t need to be that dramatic as long as you get a lot of air and a lot of light around developing fruits that’s the most important thing that is the fundamental principle of cutting the apple tree at this time of year it’s to enable light and air to get into the tree to maximise the fruiting and the ripening capacity of the apples.

If you leave this tree congested and kind of all old and dense like this you you’ll get a lot of flowers but a lot of the fruits won’t ripen they’ll fall off and the fruits that you do get will tend to be kind of small and not very flavoursome. With apple trees and most fruiting fruit trees it’s about quality not quantity.

Other Types of Fruit Trees

Now this pruning technique can also be used for pears, so pear trees are very similar in their pruning methods. Winter pruning and summer pruning but things like plums and cherries you want to save that for the summer or kind of late spring if you if you prune plums and cherries in the winter they can get a fungal disease so it’s best to leave those alone again I’ll show those in a separate video.

Sharp Pruning

Now as I said the principle of pruning the apple tree at this time of year is to open it out to let more light more air in which will maximise its fruit and capacity next year.

First thing you need nice sharp pruning saw you want to make sure you leave clean cuts. If you kind of hack around it will disinfect the tree and you’ll get a lot of again these water shoots which respond, they grow, after heavy often poor practice pruning.

So, this tree here has got a lot of crossing branches now we want to get rid of those because if you have branches rubbing on one another it can disease the plant and stop fruits from developing.

Pruning Techniques

So looking at this tree here there’s a lot of branches to prune but I’m going to choose don’t if you can see it but this branch here is coming underneath this strong limb here so with my pruning so I’m going to come in and cut not totally to the bottom but just leave a slight bit of wood above so that’s got a chance to heal so I’m just going to gently go through that making sure I’m supporting the branch so it doesn’t drop off and rip that should come off.

You can see it’s so tangled up I’m having to kind of weave it out so I’ve cut that branch off and you can see it’s opened up this area of the tree.

I’m just going to show you what a rubbing limb looks like, I don’t know if you can see it but this limb was rubbing on the other limb and it’s kind of worn away and gone black. That can let all sorts of disease in so to get rid of that that branch was really important.

You can see here also these are fruiting spurs these are kind of nobbly bits of the growth here that’s what will carry the fruit and flowers next year you can see it’s so congested it’s rubbing and you get these thin little branches here which won’t be fruiting spurs.

This is what you’re trying to encourage, and so some of these are rubbing and crossing so I can just remove them and as I said the principle you’re looking for is nice gaps in amongst the branches. Don’t worry about being too ruthless because it will respond well as a general principle.

Summer Pruning

In the summer you can tidy it up once the regrow starts but you can see the difference already just in this little section here where there’s more light more air and this will produce a nice clump of apples.

Fundamentally prune a branch take a step back look at the shape of the tree and as I said try and maximise the fruit in capacity of your Apple Tree by pruning in the winter months.

It’s quite laborious it is time consuming, but really worth it if you like your apples. It’s a really good time of year to get out there and prune them. I’ll show you in the summer months a slight different technique to prune apples as well and also you want to thin out apples in the summer.

Now I’m going to carry on pruning this apple tree and I’ll show you the results at the end.

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